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Cap'n Refsmmat

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Posts posted by Cap'n Refsmmat

  1. Unfortunately our domain name registration happened to expire on Wednesday, causing us to go down for about a day until the, uh, responsible party could be hunted down politely asked to renew the domain. We should be back now, though you may find it takes a few hours before different ISPs catch up and start letting you access the site. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  2. On 2/23/2019 at 4:25 PM, beecee said:

    Point taken....DESSERT!!! :P

    I hate to spoil the fun, but it really is "just deserts", not "just desserts"! The "deserts" is a noun related to "deserves". To quote from Garner's Modern American Usage:


    just deserts (= the treatment one truly deserves) is occasionally misrendered just desserts. Sometimes, of course, it's a playful pun, as when a bakery is called Just Desserts. But sometimes it's sloppiness or pure ignorance--e.g. "The deliciously wicked Francis Urquhart gets his just desserts [read just deserts] in this third installment of the story [the film The Final Cut]." "Best Bets", Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 21 Feb. 1997, at E2. In that example, the adverb deliciously creates a nonsensical echo in the wrong word desserts.

    Obviously this is the most important thing I have to do in the office on a Monday morning.

  3. IPB is Invision Power Board, the old name for the software we use. (Eventually they rebranded as Invision Community or something.)

    There are two separate problems we're experiencing:

    1. The new version of IPB was saving a bunch of cache data to the hard disk with every request, causing enormous load on the hard drives. That seems to be part of why SFN was so slow -- every request was delayed waiting for its turn to use the hard disk. Dave switched it to use the database instead, which can be much smarter about keeping the data in memory instead of on disk.
    2. The "bad gateway" errors are a bug in PHP which make it crash occasionally. Our HTTP server, nginx, notices that PHP has crashed and failed to produce a webpage, and reports "bad gateway" to you.

    If Dave's tweak is right, it should fix problem #1 but not problem #2. I've searched for solutions to problem #2 and haven't found anything yet -- either we're the only people experiencing the problem or it's an artifact of something unique in our setup. But if you encounter the "bad gateway" errors you should be able to refresh and get the page loaded quickly.

    We'll monitor the changes over the next couple days and see if problem #1 is conclusively solved or if we need to make more tweaks. Big thanks to Dave for spotting the issue and fixing it.

  4. Their excuse is that post counts can vary. Moderators can see posts that were hidden for breaking the rules; posts may be deleted after members already referred to them by number; and posts may be in the mod queue awaiting approval. I could refer to post #48, but its number may be different by the time you look at it, because post #47 was deleted.

    I suppose every post could be assigned a permanent number, displayed at the top right, and if #47 is deleted the thread simply skips from 46 to 48, but then you could see when we delete things, and the more censorious forums would get upset that their members could see behind the curtain.

  5. The makers of our forum software believe they know better than we do, and don't intend to create an option for adding back post numbers. This is one of the many reasons why I hate all forum software.

    However, if you click the little Share icon at the top right of a post, you can get a direct link to the post, which you can use to send people directly to the post you're referring to.

  6. 2 hours ago, studiot said:

    Are you sure the problems are all 'in house' ?

    Watching the activity of my PC it seemed to be redirected offsite to other http & www addresses several times to move from one site page to another or to call up some of the popup subroutines.

    I timed the wait time for some of these and listed them earlier, some run into appreciable fractions of a minute.

    I know that SF needs to attract advertising and interface successfully with the web advertising industry.
    I do not find the level of adverts intrusive and indeed one or two have been quite useful.
    But the web ad industry standards and protocols are changing and I wondered if the new forum software was properly compatible with them?

    The advertisements (Google AdSense) should be asynchronous: waiting for the ads to load should never block the rest of the page from loading. I believe the ads do make periodic requests while a page is open, though, so if you're waiting for another page to load you may see some ad requests appearing in the mean time.

  7. 13 minutes ago, geordief said:

    Just got 502 Bad Gateway again.(just a hiccup perhaps.Seems fine otherwise)

    Yeah, there's a PHP bug that makes it crash occasionally, and you get a 502 when that happens. It seems to happen every few minutes, and one random person trying to load a page when it happens is the lucky winner.

    I wasn't able to find any bug reports that matched the crash, but I did just upgrade our PHP install, and will watch to see if that fixes it.

    2 minutes ago, MigL said:

    Spoke too soon...

    Gotten progressively worse.
    waiting about a minute to navigate between pages, sign in, or save a post.
    ( feel like I'm on dial-up again )

    Backups just ran and sucked up a lot of CPU. Also I was running the upgrades. Let's see how the next day or so goes and that'll tell us if it's fixed.

  8. It looks like we were getting bursts of traffic faster than we could start PHP processes, and didn't have enough spare processes. I bumped the maximum number of spare processes up to 25 (from 10) and the overall cap up to 50.

    I'm not sure if that will solve the entire problem, but it should prevent some of the Bad Gateway errors. Let me know what you experience over the next day or so.

  9. 9 hours ago, Endy0816 said:

    Still wagering not really practical for a Terrorist group to pull off. They tend to go for fairly cheap actions and half the time are a bit stupid(a good thing in this case).

    Yes, a fission bomb would be a lot more difficult than, say, stealing some cobalt-60 out of a weakly secured hospital and putting it in an improvised dirty bomb. The radiation wouldn't be a serious hazard, but the panic and fear would be.

    I recall reading a GAO report about the security of medical radioactive sources in the US, and it was terrifying. They found large sources "locked" in rooms with the key code Sharpied on the door frame or stored in rooms with a window overlooking a handy loading dock... and it's not uncommon for industrial sources to be stolen out of trucks or off job sites, mostly by people who don't know what they are and just steal anything that looks valuable.

  10. On 9/19/2017 at 8:59 PM, Endy0816 said:

    There are radiation detectors out there. Think major cities and ports.

    Uranium and plutonium, the major components in a fission bomb, are not strong gamma emitters; I think they're mostly alpha and neutron emitters, and alpha particles are easily stopped in air or by solid materials, while neutrons are just hard to detect in general. Nuclear bombs are actually surprisingly hard to detect from a distance.

    I actually worked on a project to detect changes in gamma radiation indicating a radioactive material has been smuggled into an area. It's mostly good for industrial radioactive sources (which are often used for radiography or for sensing at the bottom of oil wells) or medical sources, like iodine-131. Many of these are poorly secured and could easily be stolen and turned into a dirty bomb. With gamma spectrometers regularly patrolling a city, you'd be able to detect an unshielded industrial source at a reasonable distance (under a mile).

    Many border crossings do have portal radiation monitors which trucks (or shipping containers) go through before entry. Mostly these can detect gamma emitters. Apparently more recent ones can detect the neutrons emitted by fissile material, although I suspect that's still very difficult.

    I am not aware of any major cities with systematic radiation detection systems. RadNet air monitors would detect materials released into the atmosphere, but not sealed sources, unless they get particularly close to a detector. A few cities have police carrying personal radiation detectors like this one, which I got to use a couple times, and a few other cities have done detailed helicopter-borne radiation surveys to map their background radiation. But systematic anomaly detection is too expensive outside of nuclear installations.

    On 9/19/2017 at 0:15 PM, zapatos said:

    I think it is extremely likely that a nation could have smuggled a nuclear bomb into a  major city. I also think it is extremely unlikely that a nation has done so.

    According to a book I'm reading now (Raven Rock by Garrett Graff, page 104),


    Several months into his presidency, John F. Kennedy invited journalist Hugh Sidey to dinner in Palm Beach... Kennedy paused, fork between plate and mouth, and told Sidey, "You know, they have an atom bomb on the third floor of the embassy."

    Sidey brushed off the remark, "Sure, why not?"

    No, really, Kennedy replied. The president told Sidey that U.S. intelligence believed the Soviets had smuggled atomic bomb components into Washington using diplomatic pouches and assembled it in the embassy's attic. "If things get too bad and war is inevitable," he said, "they will set it off and that's the end of the White House and the rest of the city."

    Hugh Sidey's account is in a Time article from 2001.

    So apparently it could have already happened?

  11. On 9/9/2017 at 8:15 AM, Tub said:

    Now my name is permanently on the Who's Online list! I've e-mailed the Administrators about this so we'll see what happens.

    FYI, the Contact Us page sends email to me. (I get a lot of interesting emails through that form...) The Who's Online list likely works on a delay: you only disappear from the list fifteen or twenty minutes after you last access the site. You'd think the software would remove you the instant you log out, but I suspect they didn't bother to do that, and it waits for the session to expire on its own a bit later.

    Glad to hear you got the crash fixed, though!

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