dmuth's blog

Updated the user pages on

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

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 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.

How I Decide What Cons to Work

Often this is done on the basis of referrals--if I think a con is interesting/cool, there's a chance I'll know someone who is on staff and inquire through them what the staff experience is like and if it's worth working. If I receive positive answers, I'll inquire about joining staff.

If it's a convention where I don't know any staff (as was the case many many years ago), I'll volunteer first and see how I like it. If I have a positive experience, I'll ask about being on staff in a future year (or asked to be on staff, in a couple of cases).

Why Do I Work So Many Cons?

Many reasons. First, since I am not an artist or a fursuiter, it gives me a chance to make positive contributions to the community. Second, it provides me with a bit of structure to the convention--having to be in certain places at certain times helps me better organize how I spent my time at the con. And finally, it gives me an opportunity to meet people--I've made many many friends over the years just by staffing cons... and getting to see these people again at future cons makes the experience just so much more fun.

The List of Cons I've Worked

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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 ( 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

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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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My Anthrocon 2009 Report

Wow, this took a long time to write. Smiling It was something I had been procrastinating on for awhile, mostly on account of me not uploading my pictures. Now that all of my pictures are up on Flickr, I can get down to writing about the con.

Anthrocon 2009 started for me on the Tuesday evening before the con. I met up with Whitefeet, Ethan Staghorne, and Pinky in Philadelphia. I picked up a rental car, and we headed out to Pittsburgh. Ethan brought along an iTrip and we took turns listening to each others' iPods.

Fursuit Parade

Wednesday was a pretty calm day for me. I got Ops set up and running, and then got the Registration computers set up later in the evening. This year was a change, as I was tasked with writing the convention's registration software. So I made sure I had extra time to get everything set up and tested well in advance.

Come Thursday, I was starting to get the pre-launch jitters. People were lining up for onsite registrations, and I wanted to be sure that my software would work properly. Nik Vulper even remarked to me once that I had my "game face" on. When Registration did finally open around 3, I was please to see that my code did actually run properly. Other than making periodic backups and checking that the slave database server was staying in sync, I didn't have any serious work to do in Registration the rest of the weekend.

Fursuit Parade Fursuit Parade Fursuit Parade

On Friday, I danced a bit in DJ Protocollie's dance that night, then swung by my room. I found waiting for me a 10-pack of small bottles of different Swedish liquors, courtesy of Ethan, and a printing out drinking songs to sing with them. Ethan explained that you were supposed to sing between shots. I just stared at incomprehensible Swedish between shots. (Swedish is almost as difficult to understand as Danish is, I might add Smiling

Saturday was the quietst day for Con Ops. I spent a fair amount of time out and about the con that day. It was also the day we held the fursuiter parade, where a total of 640 fursuiters marched in it. I remember when the number was announced over the radio, I had to ask that it be repeated, because I wasn't sure I heard it right the first time.

640 fursuiters in Hall C

Sunday was the "let's wrap things up day". Registration and Ops were winding down. All I had to do in reg was run final stats, make a final backup of the data, and pack up the computers. The total number of attendees at Anthrocon 2009? 3,776 attendees

Fursuit Parade

Looking back after the con, there were a number of things that made it really fun:

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Midwest FurFest 2009 Pictures

Okay, I uploaded all of my pictures form Midwest FurFest. Okay, let's get the link to all of the pics out of the way: And now, pictures that I found especially interesting!

First picture is from the Method 1 Live show. Since the hosts couldn't have beer in con space, they instead reviewed Drank Beverage. Along the way, they also decided it would be a good idea to drink Brawndo, and even mix them in the same glass and drink the olive oil-colored concoction. That didn't end so well, as this picture tries to illustrate:

Gir Drank "Drank Beverage" and "Brawndo".  Bad idea.

One Standard Issue Furpile that happened Sunday night outside of the dance:


And some actual huskies, who were part of last year's charity, came by to be trained for working with large crowds:


The first Steampunk fursuit that I recall seeing at a furry convention:

Steampunk fursuiter

This Beast fursuit--or combination of fursuit and face paint, rather, was pretty cool. The first time I've seen someone do something like that, too:

Fursuit parade

Poor Raptor Red!

Poor Raptor Red!

Want the rest of my pictures? They're at Have fun!

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