Creating a static Drupal site

After years of very little activity and the inability to upgrade Drupal from 6.0 due to missing modules in 7.0, this site will now soon be archived and all the existing content will be served using static pages.

Given the use of the Acidfree module and Forum module, and RSS feeds, it made the task a bit more difficult than the standard techniques blogged about elsewhere. In addition to that, I also wanted to archive it in a sub-dir and continue to serve the old pages from the old path (as much as possible), so need a bunch of new .htaccess rules too. Putting this in a sub-dir would allow me in the future to install another web site management tool on the web site and keep both the new pages and the old Drupal pages around.

First check out all the info at:

The reason we use httrack instead of wget is to keep the internal links as they are without having them get a .html suffix. wget also adds .1, .2, etc to downloaded pages in an unpredictable way, and makes handling Drupal pagination messy, so all this makes it harder to fix up the .html files (which one could do somewhat by using sed scripts on downloaded files to remove the .html from text and use .htaccess RewriteRule commands to add it back in). HTTrack has a -N rewrite option to do this. Only problem is that it only allows for a single rewrite rule, so all filename.jpg files become filename/index.jpg, etc. (But that is easily fixed by a httrack patch provided below which allows for two -N rewrite rules.)

Static archive as of 2014

Well, that was the plan, but turns out it is not a big deal to keep Drupal going on 6.38, the last and final update.

Did have to fix up some modules to disallow Logins and Comments from anonymous users, and now site does not use much load on the hosting machine and still allows me to update the pages. Nearly all of the load was due to hackers/spammers trying to post messages and the need to check for spam.

Old post:
This site is no longer using Drupal. All the pages have been migrated to static web pages that are shown here now.

So there is no commenting or creating new forum topics here anymore. My email address and my Google+ pages will continue to be valid.

See the post Creating a static Drupal site here for details on what was done.

Notes on Clearmodem 4G Home Internet

Right now am trying out the Clear Hub Express modem from CLEAR 4G Internet provider. I had a cable modem, but they increased prices far too much - funny how cable companies like to charge long-time existing customers a lot, and provide deep discounts to new customers!

CLEAR 4G has good prices - and very bad reviews on the web, including an ongoing class-action suit related to cutting off service for heavy usage even though they claim "unlimited data and no overage fees". My hope is that they are improving on this front now and are therefore worth a try. End result - mixed feelings about them. Mainly because their software is deficient and has bugs so it requires contacting customer support and that quality continues to be abysmal. Cable modem devices have much better software quality compared to CLEAR devices.

The report below is based on the 1.5Mbps download plan for $35/month as of March 2013. They prefer to have people buy the $50/month plan with 6Mbps service but the lower plan is good enough for most uses, including HQ level YouTube videos. If you want to watch 720p or higher HD resolutions, then something greater than 2Mbps is necessary. And at $50/month cost, it is not competitive with Cable Modems which usually offer $60/month plans for 20Mbps or higher. The YouTube wikipedia page has a table showing rates of different video resolutions.

  • The Hub Express is a router with Wi-Fi and two wired ports. It seems to work fine in my area, and has stayed up for a whole week now without problems. I don't use it all day, but do use it a lot in the evening and some weekends. It seems to hold on to the 4G signal pretty well.

Spam taking up most of the Internet bandwidth?

Is spam taking up a lot of both the network as well as CPU bandwidth on the Internet?

Spam is not just email, it also comes in another form - spam comments on websites. A large number of machines seem engineered to attack any website that allows for user comments. is a low volume personal site, so it was a shock to see the monthly bandwidth go up from the usual 2-3G per month to over 9G/month. Investigating this led to the conclusion that is is mostly comment spam activity, and most of it coming from machines in China.

Spam Load Stats - Click for full-size

The attached image (click on image for full size) shows the huge increase in spam processing. This may not have been a problem, but it also causes a huge increase in the system load. Over this same period, IP addresses from China accounted for 67% of total traffic, and over 6G of network traffic. I very seriously doubt people in China have any interest in any part of this site.

Here's a table that shows data from the AWstats and spam logging programs:

Website Activity
/ Before Nov 2012 As of Nov 2012 Change due to Spam
Bandwidth Used 2.2 GB/month 9.4 GB/month 4x
Spam Comments Attempted
500 / day 5000 / day 10x
Spam Comments Attempted
1,000 / day 10,000 / day 10x
Bandwitdh used by
IP addresses from China
0.3 GB/month 6.3 GB/month 20x

Google Chromebook tips

[Updated after a week - Chromebook is actually a pain to use, not yet ready for prime time. Fine if you are always online, even then, user experience is not smooth. There are just too many bugs - which means that they will be fixed in due time, but the existence of such basic problems makes it hard to recommend Chrome to everyone at this time. Worse - its offline mode is buggy - I lost hours of work. Read on.]

Having played with the new Google Chromebook for a week now, it is a great device! Well, so I thought after one day of use. After a week, ran into too many bothersome issues, some are listed below. I've played with both the 2012 devices: Samsung Chromebook (US$249) and Acer Chromebook (US$199).

Samsung device looks sleeker, and boots faster (10 seconds), and needs no internal fan. Acer looks a bit clunkier, but its CPU is slightly faster (20% in some web tests), and has a huge 320G hard drive. Full reviews available on the web as well as youtube, and it is worth reading through a few to get some tips on how to use this device well.
web search YouTube search.

Computerized directions can be completely wrong

This is a cautionary tale about depending on getting directions from a web site.
This example is using Google Maps, but I suspect such problems lie with all the systems.

I know Montreal pretty well, so when this person looking lost on the street showed me the Google Map directions I was astonished to see that the directions were completely in the opposite direction to the desired destination.
It claimed to provide walking directions from Metro Station Place-d'Armes to The Quays Skating Rink, Ville-Marie, Montreal. Now The Quays are in Old Montreal - which is South of the metro.

Google Maps gets that right when you just search for quays skating rink in Montreal. But it somehow gets confused when Get Directions is clicked for that place, with a starting point of Station Place-d'Armes. Instead of telling the user to head south towards the river the directions point northwards into the city!
There is no skating rink in that part of the town at all. And the Quays are quite famous landmarks in Montreal. So this was a fail on the part of Google Maps. Not a big deal actually keeping in mind that it is easy to use Google Maps itself to get a second opinion regarding directions to verify them.

To back up, here are the directions from the Google printout I saw:

1. Head northeast on Avenue Viger O toward Rue Saint-Urbain.
This is actually confusing. The Metro is right on that street, so Ouest or Est is not very helpful. Secondly, people in Montreal are used to calling streets going northeast-southwest as just east-west.
2. Turn left on Rue Saint Urbain.
3. Turn right on Boul Rene-Levesque O S
4. Turn left on Rue Clark - 60m.
Arrive: The Quays Skating Rink, Ville Marie, QC (NOT!)

Getting started with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

Until recently I was happy with an old-school phone-only phone. Now I have some time on a phone-that-does-more-than-calls smartphone. It is a unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

First impressions are that this is great fun - a lot of opportunities to waste time of course. And it also can make and receive phone calls, but that seems like an minor side feature nowadays.

Unfortunately, the whole experience is not yet completely satisfactory. Lot of minor and major glitches abound, and it took a while to get some simple essential tools enabled.
My goal was to get the 16GB device to work mostly over Wi-Fi and use it as an offline MP3 music and .avi/mp4/flv video player. And to play long audio books well, with bookmarking capability.

Not so simple, it turns out!

Google Voice does not work over Wi-Fi
This does not work on the phone! Having been accustomed to using Google Voice on my computer, I expected a phone with no service (no SIM) should have Google Voice work over Wi-Fi. No luck. And a web search does not yield much info - no help at the Google Voice support pages certainly.
Some web pages do suggest that this is probably due to the legacy phone carriers imposing their will on Google. Maybe - but would be nice if this was clear on Google Voice pages, and it is still confusing that this holds true when there is no SIM - and no carrier involved at all.
In any case, the final answer is that Google Voice does not work on the phone over Wi-Fi. It must have a carrier voice and data plan.
Google Voice works great!

Ubunutu 11.10 Installation Issues

After over a year with Fedora 13, I updated my home desktop system to Ubuntu 11.10

Some 10+ years ago I hoped installing Linux would get easier over the years and one day I would be able to recommend it to non-tech family members. No such luck - getting ubuntu 11.10 up and running took too much time, and required too many difficult fixes.

My home machine runs a web browser. It is used for some minor video processing, GIMP image editing, digikam photo management, and is a host for a KVM/QEMU virtual machine that runs a web server for some specific tasks.

When installing a new operating system, I keep existing partitions so /home, etc is left unchanged. / is on its own, so can be completely cleaned and used by the new installer.
Most partitions are in a volume group, so LVM is necessary for booting.

  1. First hurdle was downloading the installer, the Live CD. Pick the recommend 32-bit even though I (and all new computers in past 2+ years too) have 64-bit machines? Pick standard installer or dig into deeper links for the "alternate" installer? After a bunch of wrong downloads, and a lot of web searching - since Ubuntu site itself is not very helpful - determined that 64-bit install is just fine, and since I need to keep my existing partitions, the alternate installer is what I need and standard would not work (maybe!). Or at least that this combination would definitely do what I needed, and it was not clear if the standard install is good enough. So went with 64-bit alternate installer.
  2. To run the alternate installer, I needed this information: info from old fstab and df to assign partitions. During the install, I formatted / but left /home and /data alone. These were all LVM volume groups. /boot was a physical partition. Also needed IP address info - the fixed IP address and gateway IP. For hostname, used name.localdomain (i.e. localdomain single word after hostname).

craigslist entering the dark side with compulsory phone verification

I had not used for craigslist to post classifieds for a long time and had never run into this problem. But looks like now any posting to craigslist requires a phone number where they send a code which has to be entered into the phone authentication page.

They now want a phone number for posting a $10 ad about selling old chairs? Why on earth?

If this is supposed to filter spam, it certainly won't - spammers will find it worth their time to provide a phone number. And it has not cut down on spam at all - the electronics section is so full of spam - it is mostly spam - with text not matching the title and a big image on the page displaying a web site to go to for "deals". And vacation section pages are full of people posting from other cities and completely useless for actually finding a place in the local city.

So, craigslist has just made life difficult for ordinary citizens, who no longer have a phone or don't want craigslist to know their phone number. Another site gone to the dark side, what happened to all the free speech principles that founder Craig Newmark seemed to have started off with in the early days of craigslist. Now all gone by the wayside ostensibly for spam prevention but probably more of a corporate strategy to get more information about the posters. So sad.

craigslist is now completely useless for posting any ads. Need to find other online classified site that can use automated means to weed out spammers, and don't penalize real users of the site by asking for unnecessary information such as private phone numbers.

Blogger missing features

Providing assistance recently to a few people who started using Blogger, it becomes clear that while Blogger provides a wide range of tools, some key features are missing. The current feature set of blogger is somewhat confusing in terms of which target audience is actually fully covered.

Here are some things that are not easy to do in current Blogger - while some gadgets or widgets may be claim to provide the feature, they are not really easily usable. Though things do seem to be improving periodically, and there may come a time in the future when a decent, complete set of features is available.

The audience for these type of features is the low-volume blogger, blogging for personal use, and for friends and family. These features are very easy to provide in a hosted version of Wordpress, as a comparison point. It would be nice if Blogger could be used to build a social-media network for a small group, kind of like a friends-and-family network. This is something not doable right now.