Category Archives: Uncategorized

Adventures in Linux hosting: Basic Mediawiki

The main purpose of the home setup is for testing our mediawiki setup. Our old sites are running old versions of Mediawiki on php5.6. Our custom extensions need to be updated to work with the latest MW and php7 in order to satisfy IT security, and on general principles.

Documentation on has some tips for running on Debian or Ubuntu. This is mostly not based on using the apt package manager, although some prereqs will be done with apt. In particular, it looks like I need:

  • memcached
  • imagemagick
  • php-apcu
  • elasticsearch (the ubuntu default package is 1.73, will need to do this differently later)

I downloaded the latest release (1.30.0) to my home directory


extracted this with tar -xzf and then used cp -R to make separate wikis inside the /var/www/html directory.

  • wiki – for general testing

Set this up as blank wikis first, so that I will get a clean copy of LocalSettings. The installer complained about not finding APCu, XCache, or WinCache. APCu appears to be the preferred choice. Added to the dependency list above. To get the installer to see this, apache had to be restarted. This is different than on using MacPorts on a Mac, of course.

sudo service apache2 restart

I now just get this warning, which I will ignore for the moment.

Warning: The intl PECL extension is not available to handle Unicode normalization, falling back to slow pure-PHP implementation.

Did the generic test wiki first.

  • Kept the default db name my_wiki for this one.
  • Storage engine InnoDB (default)
  • Database character set UTF-8 (default is binary, but this makes it hard to see things in phpmyadmin)
  • Pre-installed extensions
    • ImageMap
    • Interwiki
    • Parserfunctions
    • SyntaxHighlight_GeSHi
    • WikiEditor
  • Enable image uploads
  • PHP object caching. Our current wikis use memcached, which is a different option. This was set up a long time ago, and caching definitely affects performance, but APCu was not compared at the time.

Using the web based installer, I had to download LocalSettings.php to my laptop and the scp it over to the server. This isn’t a big deal, but I suspect there’s a way to do the whole thing from the terminal.

This seems to work. The next step, however is to figure out how to do it all again using Docker so I can have multiple containers running different wikis. Until then I’ll solve some nyt crossword puzzles.

Remodeling 2016 – Pier and beam

The next step was to do the pier and beam foundation for the new laundry room. This started by drilling holes and pouring concrete around rebar to make the piers that support the whole thing. This is supposed to be better for our expansive clay soil than just putting down a slab that would shift and crack. Piers were poured around May 12 based on my photo timestamps.

img_1623.jpgOnce the piers were set, Stearns did framing for the beams. There’s an extra pier in the middle so the floor won’t bounce.

They had to wait until we had some dry days to pour the beams. There’s some kind of biodegradable cardboard boxes that go in the bottom of the forms. Eventually these decay away to leave a gap between the ground and the beams so soil expansion and contraction doesn’t lift and drop the structure. But you can’t pour the beams if the ground is too wet.img_1630.jpg

Eventually the weather cooperated.

May 24

May 29. You can see the holes for ventilation of the space below where the floor will go. One is close to the viewer, the other is on the far corner.

Remodeling 2016 – Demolition

Early in May, Stearns started the demolitionimg_1610.jpg. We had cleared out all the junk in the Annex, leaving behind anything that could go out with the demolition debris.

One day the backhoe showed up in the morning.

By the evening, the Annex was gone
You can see the steps from the kitchen down to the level of the old Annex.

Remodeling 2016 – Before

This it the first of several posts I meant to make months ago. We had been procrastinating doing some remodeling for several years and started to plan for it in earnest about a year ago. The pictures below are from May 2 and show a part of our house we called the Annex. It comes off the kitchen and is not on the heating cooling and is semi-finished.  The 

The door on the right led to a small room where we had a washer, a dryer, and a small freezer. After that there was an area it some desks that we used to store misc stuff including gardening supplies. The part with no window was a small workshop and after that was another room, which is where the cats lived when we were first adapting them from their feral lives.

This is the view from the other side.

The whole annex was lower than the rest of the house, and the neighborhood drained toward it. You can just see a culvert that goes below the annex for drainage. The Annex would often flood in a heavy rainstorm. We kept more garden stuff on the covered area on the end, where the roof has been sagging in a threatening way for years. The whole thing had settled over the years after some previous owner put it up so that the doors on the kitchen-proximal end didn’t close properly and there were obvious cracks in the foundation.

The goal of the remodeling was to tear this all down and and replace it with a much smaller but nicer laundry room. At the same time we would do a bunch of upgrades in the kitchen. The project was done with Stearns Design Build in College Station.

College Football Week 6: Chaos

My teams went 0-3 in a series of frustrating losses, each of which was depressing in a different way. But these were just a small slice of a crazy weekend in sports.

Miss State d A&M

The question going into this game was whether the Arkansas game showed A&M’s grit and ability, or revealed problems. Meanwhile Miss State was coming off a bye week after their historic win at LSU. Pundits were picking the Bulldogs despite A&M’s #6 ranking, and the line moved from the Ags being slight favorites to slight underdogs.

The game was in the early slot, starting at 11AM CDT. MSU was missing starting center Stomping Dillon Day, but at gametime it was announced that they would not play one of their better receivers. The Ags revealed that the shoulder injury that Malcome Kennedy sustained against Arkansas would keep him out of the game in Starkvegas. Aggie fans were surprised that among the large numbers of receivers on the roster, walk on Boone Niederhofer was the top choice to take Kennedy’s spot.

The Ags started fast again, scoring a TD on their first drive. State answered with a TD of their own, but with their drive including a Myles Garrett sack of Dak Prescott and the need for some penalties to keep the drive alive, I was hopeful that the Ags would come away with the win.  But after starting fast again, the Ags repeated their problems of keeping drives going. A muffed punt after the second A&M possession gave the Ags an opportunity to retake the lead despite stalling on the second drive, but could not convert on 4th and 1 after a horrible spot on the 3rd down catch by Niederhofer. The D got a stop on the next MSU possession, but the Ags stalled again. The number of drops was something between 9-15 depending on who was counting. Meanwhile, although the D was able to get enough stops to win if A&M was the scoring machine we expected, MSU and Prescott got their act together, found weaknesses, and made it 21-7.

It got worse when Hill threw picks on the next two possessions, squandering a forced turnover after the first interception. This made the halftime score 28-10 after the Ags added a late FG. The D got stops on the first two possessions of the second half. But the O couldn’t shift the momentum by scoring, and when MSU scored on their third possession to make it 34-10, the chances for a comeback faded.  A great catch by Speedy Noil cut it to 34-17, but we couldn’t stop State and another TD made it 41-17. The Ags scored the only points of the 4th quarter to make the final score look better, but it was still a beatdown.

As I write this, Gabe Bock and Billy Liucci are dissecting the game on the radio. The question they are addressing is whether the WR corps got surprised the last two weeks about the difference in play in the SEC West compared to the previous opponents.  This sounds right to me… dropped passes aren’t just about what a WR does with his hands at the end of the play. Everything that goes into running a good rout and creating a window affects the probability of a catch. I once read that running full speed decreases visual acuity due to the amount of head movement that happens in a full out sprint. This 2009 WSJ article about Larry Fitzgerald has some interesting thoughts about what makes a great WR in terms of vision.

Northwestern d Wisconsin

Wisconsin and Stanford both had 2:30 CDT kickoffs, and between being depressed by the Ags taking the dog out, and flipping to other games, I didn’t watch all of this game. The Badgers have had trouble with their passing game all year, which puts extra pressure on the run game. Despite the poor passing, Melvin Gordon has had an exceptional year, and Wisconsin has managed to win against weaker opponents.

If A&M fans are concerned about QB play, they only need to watch the Badgers to see how good we have it. On Saturday the Wisconsin coaches decided that a below average Joel Stave is a better choice than a horrendous Tanner McEvoy at QB. Unfortunately, this improvement includes the fact that Stave’s bad passes are close enough to the receivers to be picked off, while McEvoy tends to miss so badly that even the DBs can’t find the ball.

I missed most of Melvin Gordon’s runs on the way to a career-high 259 yards. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Northwestern’s D kept Gordon from making it into the end zone more than once. The Wildcats took a 10-0 lead into halftime. Gordon’s only TD of the game cut the lead to 10-7 and the hope was that the Badgers would get another game where the run game wears the defense out for a late win.  And when the Badgers stopped Northwestern at midfield after Gordon’s TD, it looked like that would be the script for the day.

Instead, starting deep in their own territory after a penalty on the punt return, the Badgers ran Gordon twice to make it 3rd and 5 from the 11. Instead of taking their chances with another run, the Badgers threw for the sticks… and Stave was picked off at the 16. One handoff later it was 17-7 Northwestern.

A missed Wisconsin FG and a good NW FG made it 20-7. The Badgers got down to the NW 16, but penalties and losses gave them 4th and 21 at the 27. Instead of trying another FG, the Badgers played for field position by taking a delay and punting. This looked like it had paid off when the D held and Wisconsin got the ball back at the Wildcat 44.

Most of the above is reconstructed from the online play-by-play. I only saw glimpses as I channel surfed. I did, however, watch live as the Badgers lined up with first and goal from the 3 with a chance to cut the lead to 6.  What happened next was one of the worst combinations of play calling and execution of the weekend. With everyone watching anywhere expecting the Badgers to blast into the end zone with 3 chances to make 3 yards, OC Andy Ludwig calls a pass. Stave gets chased out of the pocket and goes to the right. Instead of throwing the ball away to take 2 chances to blast Gordon or Clement into the end zone, he tries to hit a receiver for the TD and throws a pick.

Later in the 4th, Stave hit Kenzell Doe on a long TD to get the lead to 6. But now there was only 4:16 to go. The Badgers kicked deep but weren’t able to prevent Northwestern from draining the clock to 33 seconds. A final interception gave Stave 3 for the day, to go with 1 by McEvoy. Wisconsin QBs finished the day with QBRs of 10.1 and 8.8.

Notre Dame d Stanford

While the Wisconsin debacle was going on, Stanford was in South Bend playing Notre Dame in the rain. While it could be viewed as a good old-fashioned defensive game, I’m not sure if the lack of offensive production was good D or below average offense. The Irish outgained the Cardinal 370 yards to 205. With those numbers, it’s not surprising that neither team had a 100 yard rusher. Both teams tried the run 32 times (including sacks); the leading runners where Wright for Stanford with 29 yards and McDaniel for the Irish with 41.

After a 7-7 halftime tie, both teams were futile in the third quarter. Halfway through the final period, ND broke the tie with a FG. Failure to have the holder wear gloves on an earlier attempt in the pouring rain kept them from taking the lead earlier. Stanford put together what should have been the winning drive starting with a nice Ty Mongomery kickoff return to the Stanford 42. A mix of passes and runs got the Cardinal to the ND 33, where QB Kevin Hogan converted a 3rd down by lofting a 23 yard pass to Devon Cajuste at the 10. I was kind of shocked that this was completed. The ball floated high into double coverage and the ND defenders just failed to break up the completion. After two futile running plays made it 3rd and goal from the 11, Notre Dame dropped into a pass-prevent defense, leaving a vast hole up the middle that Remound Write ran through pretty much untouched for a TD and the lead with 3 minutes to go.

With Stanford’s top ranked defense and the offensive futility displayed through the day, that should have been enough. But instead the Cardinal put in a textbook display of how to blow a late lead.  They started by booting the kickoff out of bounds, giving the Irish the ball on their own 35. They then showed why people say that prevent defense is only good at preventing victories. Using a 3 man rush, they gave ND QB Everett Golson time to find holes in the secondary and march down the field. Worse, if you’re going to drop 8, it helps if they pass defenders actually know where to go. One busted coverage led to a pass interference call, giving ND the ball on the Stanford 22. The second busted coverage came on a play that was a golden opportunity for the D to save the game: 4th and 11 from the 23. Instead, the D left a tight end wide open in the left side of the end zone. TD Irish.

Stanford got the ball back with a minute to go and managed to get to midfield. But Hogan took an intentional grounding penalty and the runoff ended the game with a whimper. From the post-game.

Stanford coach David Shaw was asked what coverage the No. 14 Cardinal were in on the play.

“There was no coverage on Notre Dame’s touchdown pass,” he said. “That sounds sarcastic but he was wide-open. There was nobody on him.”



A lot of teams thought they had an opportunity to move up in the rankings when unranked Arizona upset #2 Oregon on Thursday night. Not so much.


College Football 2014 Week 2: is the B1G already eliminated?

My teams went 2-1, but with the Ags and the Badgers playing cupcakes. Didn’t see the Badgers, but checked the game thread at Bucky’s 5th quarter a few times.

USC 13 Stanford 10

The Stanford loss to USC, at Stanford, was a depressing result for the weekend.

Stanford won or tied the stats except for the two that matter the most:

Total yards291413
First downs1621
3rd down conversion7-147-14

Stanford had the ball 9 times.

StartedDeepest penetrationEnded
Stanford 31USC 21USC 32 (missed FG)
Stanford 35USC 13USC 29 (punt?!!!)
Stanford 23USC 0USC 0 (TD)
Stanford 20USC 7USC 16 (FG)
USC 30USC 9USC 9 (missed FG)
Stanford 36USC 3USC 3 (downs)
USC 32USC 32USC 32 (fumble)
Stanford 35USC 23USC 32 (punt)
Stanford 25USC 22USC 25 (fumble)

All 9 possessions got inside the USC 35. The Cardinal got 1 TD and 1 FG to show for this. Both punts were taken from within FG range for a decent kicker. The first one went into the endzone for a touchback; the second put USC on their own 7 with the score tied late in the game. The Trojans marched down for the winning FG.

The game was also notable for a couple of things:

  • Pat Haden coming down to the field to be the first AD to argue with the refs on national TV based on getting a text message.
  • The usually excellent Kirk Herbstreit’s explanation that it’s OK for DBs to mug receivers as long as they are looking back for the ball.

The San Jose Mercury quotes coach David Shaw in the post-game:

The bottom line: You don’t take advantage of opportunities, you lose games to good teams,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “They made plays and we didn’t. They made calls and we didn’t.”

Then, anticipating a familiar criticism from Stanford fans, Shaw added: “We were bad in the red zone, and it had nothing to do with being too conservative.”

I agree that it was not about being too conservative overall, but punting from the 32 and the 29 is pathologically conservative in my book.

Texas A&M 73 Lamar 3

The Aggies’ game was notable for being the first in the partially remodeled Kyle Field, for a 2 hour delay for lightning in the area, and for lots of Aggie subs getting valuable game experience.     The game was about to start and fireworks could be heard from our house when Coach Sumlin cut off the pregame interview on the SEC Network Alternate Channel by saying “We’ve got to get off the field”.  At first, I thought this was the usual coachspeak about how the defense has to get stops. Then it became clear that he meant it literally: lightning had been detected within the radius that mandates a delay of a game.

Texas A&M may have screwed up how this was handled. As detailed on Good Bull Hunting, leaving 104K fans in the stands during a lightning warning was not very smart. It also probably violated NCAA recommended policy.

Once the game got going, the Ags dominated as expected, with one breakdown allowing the Lamar Cardinal to get close enough to the goal line to kick a FG. 3 QBs played, and two seldom used running backs got a lot of carries.4th string  Junior Brice Dolezal ended up the leading rusher when he ignored the plan to run out the clock and broke a 41 yard run for a TD with 1:26 to go and the Ags already up 66-3.

Is the B1G out of the playoff picture already?

Big 10 (base 14) commish Jim Delaney says no

“Big games matter on big stages with big ratings and a lot of attention,” Delany told on Sunday. “In the three primetime games, we didn’t win any. That’s disappointing. I would say this: I said they would be disproportionately impactful but I didn’t say they would be dispositive. We’re not feeling very good but the facts are the facts. I would just say with 50 percent of the nonconference games and 100 percent of conference games remaining, it’s premature to make any judgments.

Here’s what’s left for the B1G OOC, with teams sorted by record and then name

  • Illinois (2-0): Washington, Texas State
  • Iowa (2-0): Iowa State, Pittsburgh
  • Maryland (2-0): W Virginia, Syracuse
  • Minnesota (2-0): TCU, San Jose State
  • Nebraska (2-0): Fresno State, Miami
  • Rutgers (2-0) Navy, Tulane
  • Penn State (2-0) UMass, Temple
  • Indiana (1-0) Bowling Green, Mizzou, N. Texas
  • Michigan (1-1): Miami, Utah
  • Michigan State (1-1) E. Michigan, Wyoming
  • Ohio State (1-1): Kent State, Cincinnati
  • Purdue (1-1): Notre Dame, S. Illinois
  • Wisconsin (1-1): Bowling Green, S. Florida
  • Northwestern (0-2): W. Illinois, Notre Dame

Teams from the former BCS conferences plus Notre Dame are in bold. Currently ranked teams in either the AP or the coaches poll are in italics. The opportunities to impress based on out of conference wins are limited. The B1G may still get into the playoff if their conference champ is undefeated and other conferences fail to produce unbeaten teams. But IMO it won’t be based on out of conference impressions.

This all just fits with my belief that the idea that the playoff will reduce controversy is delusional.

Yet more testing of JSmol2wp


This is a test of the isosurface capability using an xyz and jvxl file uploaded to WordPress media. Markup is: [jsmol acc='s_den.cub_' type='xyz' caption='Load local file' isosurface='s_den.cub_.jvxl']

Load local file



I’ve been frustrated by Apple’s Podcasts app on my iPhone, so I decided to try InstaCast on the recommendation of a friend on twitter.  Initial impressions:

  • The first thing I noticed was that when you launch it for the first time, it doesn’t ask if you want to import Podcast subscriptions from iTunes or the Podcasts app.  There is a way to do this but it only imports the subscription URLs, not which episodes have already been played or not.
  • The app has a new UI optimized for iOS7… which means that the online docs don’t seem to show screenshots that match the app
  • Some podcasts only show the most recent episode. Not clear if I can get the old ones
  • I hate having podcasts in the cloud. This is one of my two main frustrations with the PodCasts app (the other is it deferring to the Music App). I do not want my data plan sucked dry pulling podcasts over the cellular network when part of the reason I got the 32G iPhone in the first place is so that I could download podcasts and listen to them when out of range of wifi. InstaCast can download episodes, but the UI to download them is a bit cryptic. Comparephotophoto
    Clicking on the cloud icon in Podcasts seems intuitive by comparison. In InstaCast, you have to click on the menu in the bottom right, select podcasts, and then click the download icon that appears in the bottom bar after you’ve selected the menu icon. What is worse it that the top item that shows as ready to play has not actually been downloaded yet!
  • If you want to see which podcasts have actually been downloaded, I think you have to go to Lists > Downloaded… which you can’t filter by source. You can’t tell by selecting an item in the subscription list and looking at the download icon. It doesn’t gray out even if that podcast was already downloaded.
  • When you click on the menu icon, you get a Select All option. But as soon as you select one, the option to select all goes away. It doesn’t change to Unselect All. So if you select half of a list and then change your mind, you have to cancel and then come back to Select All.

So far, I’m not impressed.

Whiteboard restoration

The whiteboard in my office is pretty bad in terms of being actually erasable. Trying this trick of using WD-40 to fill the pores.  Seems to work ok. Don’t spray as much as I did; a little goes a long way.