AJ Henderson AJ's Blog

January 28, 2011

New Servers, IIS7 PHP/Perl Fun and Massive VMWare Images

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology,Work — AJ @ 7:45 am

So over the last few weeks I have been working on transitioning the Wiicafe.com server to a new home on a new, cheaper, more powerful dedicated server than the aging, ailing 2k3 box it had been on.  We’re now in the final stage of the move to a new 2k8 box and it has been an adventure in learning the new abilities and quirks of IIS7.

Overall, I have actually found the entire migration progress to be very easy.  After zipping up all the data for the server I was able to simply unzip it on the new server and setup IIS sites for each.  The Web Platform Installer was great in terms of simplifying installation of most services and IIS7 had a much more streamlined flow for building out the sites and sub domains.

The only really challenging part was getting Perl working for a few legacy Perl bits on the Wiicafe site.  The key turned out to be the fact that ActiveState’s 64 bit builds do not include the ISAPI filter version of Perl and the CGI based ones are not very good and are prone to crashing on code that works under any other situation.  After figuring this out from lots of research and gathering scattered bits of information from around the net (and wasting more than a few hours) it turned out to be as simple as downloading the 32 bit version, installing it on the system, creating an app pool for the portion of the site requiring Perl support, altering the app pool’s advanced settings to set the “Enable 32 bit Applications” flag and then setting up the mapping for the scripting engine as normal.

There was also an issue I ran in to after everything was set up.  I’m not sure what caused it exactly but for some reason the PHP Manager ( a really nice plugin for IIS7 that manages PHP settings for multiple versions of PHP running on the same server) decided to start erroring out and one of my php.ini files mysteriously disappeared.  I pulled the php.ini from shadow copy, but was still getting a “IIS7 File monitoring is enabled for a file which could not be found” error being returned by PHP’s FastCGI handler.  After searching the web and finding nothing useful, I tried simply using the Web Platform Installer to install a newer version of PHP and that fixed the issue on both the non-working PHP version as well as the new version.

The last bit of fun was simply trying to back up the old server.  I’m by nature a pack rat and can’t stand getting rid of a system for fear of missing something or misplacing some data.  (I have numerous terabytes of external hard drives to prove this.)  To avoid any possible loss of data, I set out to make my largest VMWare image ever.  I loaded up VMWare Converter (a wonderful free utility from VMWare for converting a physical computer in to a virtual one) on the old server but had a problem that I didn’t have enough space on the old server to make an image.  (The old server only had 120GB of HD space and over 110GB of that was in use.)  To get around that particular problem I ended up setting up a remote desktop from the new server (with it’s shiny almost empty 250GB drive) to the old server and setup a drive mapping over the tsclient share that I could direct VMWare Converter to save it’s image to.  About 4 and a half hours later I had a beautiful 103 GB virtual machine of the old server (broken in to 2GB chunks thankfully) and started the 17 hour process of downloading it all to my home workstation. (I don’t think my cable company will like me much this month.)  After the download finished, everything booted great in VMWare Player (also free).  Though I did double the RAM available to the server to make it run a little smoother.

So yeah, overall a bit of an exciting time in new server land and time to bid a fond farewell to the old wiicafe.com server that has served wiicafe and myself so well for the last 6 or so years.

November 15, 2010

3D TVs and Crazy Deals

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology — AJ @ 7:14 pm

So I ended up getting a new Sony KDL-55HX800.  I had been looking for a new TV for a while and Best Buy had a really good deal for a beautiful 3d Sony TV with a free PS3 and two pair of 3D glasses for basically half off. Got it all hooked up and calibrated and the quality is crazy.  I’d compare it to the difference between my really old crt and an lcd hdtv.  Great color and contrast.  3d is solid too. It does use polarized glasses to avoid a flicker but limits 3d to horizontal viewing.  Overall I like it a lot better than comparable Samsung.

October 18, 2010

MySpace and LinkedIn

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Technology,Work — AJ @ 5:21 pm

Sure they may be the abandoned end of the interwebs, but why shouldn’t they enjoy the blog linking bliss?  Thanks to Alpha Links for the latest functionality.

October 12, 2010

Success: Integrating with Facebook, Twitter, The City and Android

So after three or four days of work, it looks like I finally have a working system.  I can now post from my Galaxy S to my blog and have that send notifications to Facebook, Twitter and The City.  For those curious in the details, I’m running the latest WordPress, PHP and MySQL for the site with the Janrain Engage, Twitter Tools (slightly modified to get #tc hashing working from Android client posts) and Wordbooker for plugins.

Janrain Engage and Gigya were in pretty close running, but I liked the integrated Share ability of the Janrain plugin.  Gigya would be better for a larger site as it is definitely a slicker back end, but it lacked the front end simplicity that I was looking for for this project.  Both systems provide integrated authentication from a number of different social networks and web sites like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, MySpace, AIM, Flicker, etc.  They also both offer the ability for users to share your posts under their own accounts directly from the site, however Gigya required an additional step to setup.  Both are free for non-commercial purposes at low usage levels (sub 1000 unique visitors a month).

Twitter Tools directly integrates with Twitter’s API and handles Twitter posting when new blog posts come in.  I had to modify it a little because the hash tags plugin was not adding hash tags when posting from the Android client (and presumably any other WordPress API using client).  I have submitted the bug so hopefully the hack won’t be necessary soon.  Currently I just have it hardcoded to always add #tc to posts to push to The City using The City’s Twitter integration.  (For those who are not familiar, The City is a private social networking platform for churches run by Zondervan.)

Wordbooker hooks in to Facebook Connect and handles both pushing status and wall updates for posts as well as pulling back comments from the wall post on an hourly basis.  Note that if you try it out, I have comment approval required still so it might not show up even after an hour since I might not be watching my phone for comment notifications.

So yeah, with that project done and out of the way, now I get to move straight in to updating my World of Warcraft mod since they just released the 4.0.1 client today… wish they could have waited another month or so, but oh well, life goes on.  At least I have another great developer helping on that project and I get paid (I’ll be it about $1.50 a week (go profit sharing) and guaranteed Beta invites for WoW expansions.) for something I’d do anyway.

Foiled by Twitter Updates

Filed under: Church,Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 4:19 pm

So apparently the reason The City wasn’t getting status updates is that Twitter decided to update their system and broke the link that The City used.  After tweeting their lead developer, they seem to have gotten it working again so it is time for another test…  Here’s hoping for the best…

October 11, 2010

Hopefully The City works now

Filed under: Church,Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 10:08 pm

The last attempt didn’t work.  Sorry for the blog spam.

Twitter Too

Filed under: Church,Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 10:03 pm

Hopefully twitter and the city are now linked as well…

Social Networking Comes To AJHenderson.com

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 9:03 pm

So in my quest to actually make my blog something I update I have added social networking integration. With any luck it should now be possible to login and share posts with several different logins as well as auto posting blogs to facebook.

October 7, 2010

Important Note on MySQL and PHP5

Filed under: Cool Stuff — Tags: , — AJ @ 12:17 am

So after much searching, I finally discovered the cause of PHP5 not being able to connect to MySQL.  As it turns out going from PHP4 to PHP5 changes from a client requiring old_password to a client that requires you don’t, so be sure to reset your passwords to the new hash or it won’t work. Hope it helps.

October 6, 2010

Troubleshooting the Blog and Overdue Maintenance

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 8:46 pm

Well, doing some troubleshooting of the Android WordPress client seems to point towards the fact I was using MySQL 4 and PHP4 as the main culprits.  I’d been on those ancient versions still because of the Wiicafe.com site which is co-located with this one having some legacy issues that I’d have to deal with, but this finally gave me the motivation to try tackling them.  I have not done the PHP update yet, but I was able to (apparently) successfully upgrade to the latest MySQL with minimal problems actually (about 2 hours of work for about 18 DBs) and was able to eliminate a lot of spam polluted DBs that were bogging the server down.  If the PHP update goes as smoothly I’ll be quite happy.

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