Monthly Archives: August 2013

Collected Quotes June-August 2013

Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. ― Franz Kafka

No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys. ― Douglas Horton

There’s something ugly about the flawless.  ― Dennis Lehane

If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you. ― Leo Tolstoy

 

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Spark File

Better Answers & How I Learned to Defrag My Brain first posts this video on Steven Johnson’s book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.

Then it moves on to talking about Johnson’s blog post The Spark File. (Doesn’t Getting Things Done have something similar?)

We have outgrown our ability to remember everything that might be useful in the future. Last week I heard Ray Kurzweil on Biotech Nation say around age 22 we reach the upper limits of what we can remember. After this point to remember something we forget something else. His idea is that we will connect our brains to the Internet for additional storage. But not as an external hard drive but for searching for the data or information we need.

The Spark File is more the clunky approximation of the external hard drive. I have also seen it called the External Brain. It is cathartic in that once we commit things to writing, we can stop constantly thinking about it. Really, this is a major reason why I blog. There are usually a dozen drafts sitting around waiting for me to revisit them and flesh out the post. (This one was originally started 30 days ago as just a link.)

My smartphone is my clunky approximation of searching the Internet for whatever I need whenever I need to know it. I’d appreciate Google Glass if it read my brain rather than having to talk to it. I can talk to my phone now to do a search, but I never do. Guess I am too quiet?

P.S. Johnson’s book Everything Bad is Good for You changed my life.
:D

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Each D2L Site Broke 25 Million Hits

Night School is the last time I posted stats here. So this is probably due.

This Yaketystats graph records the daily hits for each site in green and pink. The gray is a total of the two. I had it go back to April first to show our spring load compared to how we are starting this fall.

Each of our Desire2Learn instances broke 25 million hits. Our schools set their own calendars, so start dates ranged from the 12th to the 26th. The amount of activity surged on start dates for the largest schools. A small bump on Wednesday of last week, normally there is a small fall off on Wednesdays, is due to a smaller school’s first day of classes.

The green line has three very large schools (1st, 2nd, 4th) who all started on the 19th. It peaked at 27.59M on the 20th.

The pink line’s bump on the 26th was due to its only very large school starting then. It peaked at 25.61M on the 27th.

Tuesday’s peak could be the highest we get until finals in early December. Since the schools have a Drop/Add period, the first few days are usually slightly higher activity.

Hits From 2013-APR-01 to 2013-AUG-29

Hits From 2013-APR-01 to 2013-AUG-29

Back in April, I saw:

@kfrisch#D2LRUF Reported that MnSCU’s D2L gets 25 million hits a day! We’re the largest self-hosted client of D2L in the United States.

The largest client we have still uses around 70% Blackboard Vista. Their plan is to be all in D2L come January. That should push the green one over the point it is bigger than MnSCU. But even just the normal increase in usage should have the pink one fairly comparable to MnSCU.

We should do something like about a billion hits a month.

I would prefer using a pageview metric. Maybe one of these days when I can make better progress on the to-do list.

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GEICO Mobile App

I watched a commercial where traffic enforcement officer pulled over a pig in a convertible who hands over his phone when requested for identification. The officer questions it. The pig explains. The officer remains skeptical.

Personally, I think it should continue with the officer saying, “Since you’ve unlocked your phone and handed to me, I will just check your text messaging and phone logs. Oh, you received one while you were driving. Here’s a ticket for texting while driving. More people should just let us know when they are breaking out silly laws this way.”

Also.

Maybe the kids making commercials these days have forgotten the offensive use of “pig” to refer to a police officer. Having a pig and police officer talking to each other seems like skirting really close.

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Almost Foiled by Facebook

A coworker asked me how long a certain song was playing in the lobby. I responded that I posted about it on Facebook and can find out from that.

Only I could not find it. I went to my page and hit End until I was too far back in time. Then I used the browser search to look for keywords. Nothing. More keywords. Other songs I about which I recalled getting lots of comments. Nothing.

Then I remembered Facebook defaults to showing Highlights. I had to change it to All Stories and do it again. That worked.

It is like they do not want us to be able to find anything.

Graph Search is okay. What would really be nice is being able to find that specific status update I want to reference. Maybe I need to go find a more archivist centric social network?

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Host Hopping Cookies

It started with a tweet on Saturday morning.

@MsIngalls: When I go to the Checklist in @Desire2Learn -when I am logged in – I get an error message that says my log in has expired – ideas? #d2l

This sounded like an issue we had in WebCT Vista product I called Failed Sessions. FSes occur when the user is actively working in the product and suddenly gets dumped to the login page. Not to be confused with Login Loop which is providing the correct username and password but never getting a valid session. I hated working either issue because they were never repeatable. The problem could involve any piece of software that could somehow touch a cookie on the user’s computer. Occasionally they were the fault of Weblogic too.

I recommended Amy open a Desire2Learn ticket through our portal on behalf of the professor. I also started my own investigation.

First, I poked around in the logging database for errors involving checklist. I found different courses not the one involved.

Second, I pulled out of our load balancer logs the id number for the course. That yielded plenty of data showing the problem.

These, I added to the ticket and suggested capturing the HTTP headers should the issue not be repeatable by others. Of course, the support agent was not able to repeat it. The headers clearly showed the cookies were not sent.

The professor of course poked holes all through my suggestions of tracking down which of the many software is involved. Different software, hardware, networks, and browsers meant the cause was probably not something residing on the computers. But the issue definitely was still all of these browsers in a wide variety of places all chose not to send the cookies. This is also when he dropped the next bomb that the problem only occurs on links in a specific widget.

Checking the code behind the widget, I only saw simple absolute URLs. Which made me shudder because earlier this week absolute URLs in the login page for a development site put me in production without me being aware for several minutes.

PSA: Only use absolute URLs when sending a visitor to another web server. Say you are here, at http://www.ezrasf.com and you want someone to see another of my blog entries. Drop http://www.ezrasf.com from the URL and start the path with / (a relative URL). Should I change the host name to blog.ezrasf.com or http://www.ezrafreelove.com, then the link has better success of working.

It turns out the problem is the professor used the pre-production host name for the web application. The widget absolute URL links used a different host name for production. Both resolve to the same servers. But cookies are tied to a specific host name. So being logged into one of host and getting a link to the variant means the session is not valid at the variant.

At least the workaround and fix are easy.

The workaround for the professor is to stop using the pre-production URL.

The fix is for the widget designer to turn the absolute URLs to relative URLs since they point to same location.

Also, it would be nice for a better error message than:

No Login

Either you have failed to login, or your login has expired.

First the comma is bad grammar. Second, if I am a normal user who encounters this problem, then what can I do to fix it myself? This is not an error someone sees if their password or username are wrong. This is also not what a user normally sees when they are idle too long. But then again, there are lots and lots of potential causes and solutions.

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How Many Lives Do Squirrels Have?

I was driving to dinner earlier today when I saw this event.

Mr. Squirrel leaped ran to the side of the road and paused. At first I thought, “Hey a smart squirrel. He’s realized the car in front of me would hit him if he tries to make it.” No such luck. A truck approached from the opposite direction. Maybe Mr. Squirrel did not look in my direction? Maybe he did and in turning to see the truck forgot about the car in front of me. Either way, he leaped into the road about 1/3 across at the first landing spot. The second leap had him hit head first the driver’s side door of the car in front of me. I hit my brakes to come to a stop. The truck coming from the opposite direction did the same. Mr. Squirrel darted across between the car in front of me and mine to make it into the woods.

Nutty.

Natural selection failed today.

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