Another Reason To Love Community Server 2.1

I have had a blog in one form or another for ages. In fact, if your definition of a blog is a place to say what I am up to and for others to leave comments about it, enabling a basic conversation, I have had a blog since I was living on 3rd and A in NYC over 10 years ago. The problem has always been that it was somewhat difficult to figure out who visited the site. Sure, there were always the logs but they were often tough to parse.

Then a few years ago, the guys behind Movable Type came up with an idea call TrackBacks. Implemented correctly, trackbacks were supposed to automatically show up like comments with a blurb about who is linking to your page and what they said. The problem was that while it was available to you if you used something like MT, it wasn’t braindead easy to implement in a custom blogging engine like mine.

The engine I used was something I wrote from scratch. For a long time it was a LAMP-based solution. When I became an SE for NetObjects, a public web software company with a 49-51% interest owned by IBM, I made it a Websphere solution. Thankfully that mistake was fixed when I went to work for Microsoft a few months later. The site became a C#/ASP.Net learning project, and I am sure if I had spent a few minutes with the crap info available on trackbacks, I could have gotten it going. But I had a real job and tried to focus on that more.

Eventually I started using Community Server because it made my job as blogger far easier while not sacrificing some of my perceived requirements. Community Server supported trackbacks, but at some point they stopped working on my site. Before that I suffered from trackback spam that was painful, just another form of the referral spam i worked through in my own software.

Fast forward to this past week. I noticed I was a victim of comment spam. It wasn’t on the blog itself, but on a photo in the gallery section. One image had over 1000 comments. Looking at this site, even the newest user can see its not exactly a popular read, with most articles getting up to one or two comments. So for a single photo to have more than 2 comments was wierd, 1000 comments was Twin Peaks final backwards episode bizarre. About a month ago, I saw a blog posting about the comment spam filter tools in CS2 on Justin Pierce’s site, BlogFish. I did just what it suggested, pissed off that I hadn’t enabled that before. So far so good.

Either that same day or a day later I upgraded to CS 2.1 and I noticed that TrackBacks were working. I noticed this because I got a trackback from the CS Daily News site after getting help on my installation issue with CS. But what I am most excited about is that the spam filtering appears to be blocking the bad guys out, letting the good guys through, letting me know about both, and deleting the blocked stuff after a few days. I have a great single dashboard that shows me the number of comments in my blog and galleries and can quickly go through to review them all. When reviewing comments, the trackbacks can be reviewed in the same listing. Unfortunately I have to review blog comments separately from gallery comments, and each gallery has its own separate listing. I would prefer to have a single comment/trackback review for all comments and trackbacks on my server, but now I am just getting greedy.

So is any of this really new? No, not really, but that’s not the important part. Some of it worked before, but not all at the same time. The important part is that it is all coming together and just works….well, tweaks are required, but it is almost there. Its amazing how much just works out of the box and the problem I encountered was really a limitation of my connectivity to my hosting provider or a crappy ftp client. I am still the administrator of the site, I still own everything about it, but I have a day job and I can have this fairly cool site that I can play with and things just mostly work as I hoped. Now I can think about what I want to do to make it better rather than keep thinking of the work required to get the site back up to a minimally working state. Thats why I have another reason to love CS 2.1.

Visited Countries Getting Redder

Every now and then I like to check out the Visited Countries page to see how much of the world I have covered. Here are my current results.

Wow! Now I still have to hit Africa and most of southern South America….and China….oh, India, and most of SE Asia….oh and all those places in the MidEast where my head might not stay attached to the rest of my body….OK, there is a lot to see still…. Go to the site to make your own.

United is doubling EQM miles till EOY

In case you fly much, this could be a fantastic deal. You pay them about 400 Euros and they willdouble any miles you fly till December 15 and count that amount towards your EQM miles. Thats the amazing part… those are the miles required to get Premier, Premier Exec, and 1K. Usually when you get any kind of bonus miles, they are just good for use for upgrades and free tickets. Those are good, but often hard to use. The important thing to a frequent flier though is EQM miles which get the higher status and sometimes better service. Sweet!

So far this year I tried to focus on getting status on KLM/NWA. I always had Northwest Gold just for being a Microsoft employee. You could just tell MSFT Travel to bump you up there on each of the airlines. I never actually flew with them until this year. In fact, I started flying with them in April and I am at 50K miles so far which is pretty good since KLM (I am in Amsterdam, remember) is not a great airline. What makes an airline great for me? Friendly and helpful staff, comfy seats, and policies that don’t suck. KLM is pretty weak in all of these areas. United…well….sucks less. United (and Northwest for that matter) is amazingly spacious compared to KLM.

Anyway, back to the deal. For me it totally makes sense. If I don’t fly with United soon, I lose Premier Exec. But how can I fly 50,000 miles with United in the last two months of the year??? Well, next week I fly to Sydney, Australia. My flight takes me through DC, then LAX. From Sydney I go to Auckland, NZ. Then back to Melbourne. Then Sydney, LAX, DC, and finally Amsterdam. That one trip is 31,000 miles, 27K of which will be on United flights. So with the Double EQM deal, I will actually get 58,000 miles which keeps me in Premiere Exec! The trip 10 days later to Seattle, via LHR and ORD will get me another 6K or so and just solidifies that position.

If there is a downside to this deal its that if I hadn’t wasted the year with KLM, I would be using this deal to get me to 1K!!! Oh well, next year Premier 1K (100,000 miles) should be easier…


Up to Community Server 2.1

For a while I noticed there were all sorts of problems with this site. The biggest was that it was tough to get all the posts for a category. So if you came here after taking a class, you couldn’t actually find anything I was talking about. I wanted to update it, but I also wanted to update the site to the latest version of CommunityServer. So I did both just now…well, I finished just now. It actually took a long time to do mostly because it took freaking forever to ftp the content up to my site. Anyway, its done…good night.

[update] search still isnt working. Not sure why. There are a bunch of posts that talk of truncating tables, but they have not worked yet…..hoping it will just take some more time for the jobs to fire.

[update 2] Search now working. Ended up being that my global.asax file didn’t copy up to the site. Re-uploaded it and everything began to work. Sweet!! 

[update 3] So did I figure this all out on my own?!?!? No, of course not. I relied on the CSGenius known to the world as Dave Stokes. First off, if you are doing the upgrade, check out his upgrade guide. But you may end up with a problem anyway. If you do, post the question to the CS Forums on Setup and Installation. Thats what I did, and the man himself figured it out in some virtual seconds (well, it was a bit longer, but I am located 6-8 hours ahead of him).

Matts VM Tip of the Day

Everyone now uses some sort of virtual machine technology in their daily work. I happen to use VMWare, but I used to use VirtualPC….though I started with VMWare when it was still a research project at Stanford. When working with VMWare, tweaking the last drop of performance out of the machine is a never ending task. One of the easy, though time consuming steps is defragging the drive. You want to defrag both the host machine and the guest machine, but the most important files you might want to defrag on the host are the VM files themselves. So you could start up the Windows Defrag or I use Diskeeper from Executive Software. But when all I really care about is the VM, I use contig. Contig is a file defragmenter and is one of the amazing free utilities from Sysinternals. Whats special about contig is that I can focus in on one file or a directory of files. So I will go into the directories that hold my VMs, and run contig -v -s *.* and it will defrag all the files in that directory and subdirectories. When I have some files in 700 fragments that go down to 1, I see a huge performance gain in the VM later on.