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Deeker's Message of the Week

May 1, 2005

If It's Not One Thing, Then It's Another

I can never win, it seems. Last week I thought I might actually get the updates posted in time. I was ahead of the game for once and I thought for sure I'd make it well within the 12:00 - 3:00 time window. Due to technical difficulties, I was not able to get the site updated until nearly 5:00 PM Mountain time (GMT -7:00).

I was ready to post updates at 12:05 PM and I was happy to have nearly made the "old" deadline, which was 12:00 noon. The reason I was so late again was because I could not upload any of the files. Without getting too technical here (for the benefit of the less computer-savvy), I will try to explain what happened. In Unix, which is the operating system most web sites use including this one, files are assigned "permissions". Permissions can be set so that only certain people can delete or overwrite the files. On many networks, many files have read-only permissions, which means they can be viewed but cannot be deleted or overwritten. When Jim, the guy who hosts my site on his server, installed a new firewall package, this reset all of the files on my site so that they only had permissions set to the root user. A firewall is a system that prevents hackers (actually, crackers is a more accurate term) from getting into the system and screwing with things. The "root user" is the main operator or the administrator of the system who has complete control over everything. Because all of the files on my site were set so that only the root user could overwrite or delete them, I was unable to post my files, which are set with my permissions when I am logged in to upload them.

When I contacted Jim about the problem it took him awhile to get back to me. It turned out that he was on vacation thousands of miles from home, but he had his laptop with him. He was able to remotely change the ownership of the files on my site so that I could then have total control over them by assigning ownership and permissions to me. By the time he got this problem taken care of I finally got the new files uploaded. After a couple hours had passed I realized I had another problem. No QOTW responses, survey responses, sightings, etc. were coming in. At first I thought my QOTW was a real dud as nobody seemed to be responding to it.

When I realized that nothing else was coming in, either, I thought that maybe everyone who had been waiting for me to update the site had given up. The problems I had last Sunday made me feel like I was hosting a party and had told my guests when the party started. When my guests showed up, the door was locked, but I was not able to explain why the party wasn't starting on time and why I could not let them in. When I opened the door to invite in my waiting guests, they had all gone home, probably feeling disgusted. I used this analogy to illustrate what I was thinking at the time and how I felt. It was very frustrating to not be able to post anything in the MOTW to explain what the hell was happening.

When I responded to the QOTW myself and did not see anything in my email from it I knew something was still hosed on the server. I don't know what Jim had to do to fix this. On Tuesday he sent me the backlog of all the QOTW and survey responses that had not gotten to me and he fixed the other problems on the site so that new responses would start coming in again. I'd like to thank Jim for doing this.

I apologize to everyone who was inconvenienced or was concerned about me and the web site when they did not see it updated in time. I appreciate everyone's understanding and patience when things like this happen.

* * * * *

Have a good week, everyone. Stay happily and thickly diapered!

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