Bird in the Wood Stove

So today, I came home for lunch for an emergency bird removal. Apparently, in the big storm that we had hit Utah this past weekend, a bird flew or fell into our chimney and got stuck. Since birds can’t just fly straight up a chimney, it flapped around like crazy in the wood burning stove and up and down in the pipe coming off it. Well, with a plastic bag and the usual stove tools (the little shovel, poker and broom), we were able to capture the bird and release it back to nature in the backyard. I was amazed that as soon as I let go of the bird, it just flew right off into a tree like nothing had ever happened, and without even saying thanks!

Bird in the Stove

Google Sitemaps

So, I’m starting up a new website, www.utahlinux.com and I just setup the Google Analytics and started working on a Google Sitemap for the site. Even though Google says that having a Google sitemap doesn’t effect the ranking of your site, I think that it helps a lot, especially with the indexing of the site with the search engine. We’ll see how long it takes to get indexed. (I submitted a sitemap for this site (utahsysadmin.com) yesterday). So we have a little contest now between the two of them.) I was disappointed to see that the Google SiteMap Generator that Google offers to create sitemaps, does not contain a crawler for following all the links on your site and indexing them for you. Maybe they would give away too much how their spiders work if they did that. Since my utahlinux.com site has a lot of pages (mainly resource and informational documents mirrored for local use), I had to get a crawler to automate the creation of the sitemap. I tried using phpSitemapNG for quite some time before I decided that the site was just to big for the script. It’s a php based program and runs pretty slow and eventually times out before ever finishing the mapping. So I downloaded one that runs on your PC, instead of your server, gsitecrawler. So far it seems to be running well and has a bunch more options. Hopefully it saves it’s progress in case it stalls out, it can start where it stopped previously. We’ll see…

Painting and computers

So my wife and I painted my son’s room today and talking about stupid computer users, made me come up with this analogy. I don’t know if it makes sense to everyone or not, but here goes: A computer is a tool, just like a paintbrush. If you want to use a tool, it’s better if you learn how to use it. Anyone can pick up a paintbrush or turn on a computer, but if you really want to use the tool effectively, you need to take the time to learn how to use it and as you gain more experience with it, the better you are. Computers, like paint brushes, can be purchased easily, they are ready available, but just because you bought one, doesn’t mean that you’ll be any good at it. If you want your house to be painted well, you hire a professional. The same should go for computers. Unfortunately, people just assume that since they know how to turn on a computer, they should be instant experts at it, and if not they can call someone who is and get them to come over and fix their computer, or walk them through step by step, or whatever for free. Why is that? If you are going to paint a room and have absolutely no idea how to do it, do you start the job and then call an expert painter at home and say, “How am I supposed to paint the trim?” Of course, not. But then again, I’m not a painter and maybe people do. But my theory is that they don’t and the reason people are so willing to ask how to do something on a computer relates to a lack of respect for computer skills. There is this thought that anyone and everyone can use a computer. Unfortunately, there is a very small percentage of people with real computer skills, so next time you need help, be thankful for that person you ask for help. Well, I guess I’ve gotten off of my analogy/topic, maybe that’s why my wife says I should come up with analogies.

mod_rewrite

So I set this blog up to use permalinks and it automatically gave me the content for my .htaccess file to use mod_rewrite to handle the links. That was pretty cool. This reminded me of a site I recently worked on that I ended up using mod_rewrite to hide all the ? and & symbols in the URL. One of the things that I was unsure of was how to create an exception to the rule like for example css files that didn’t need to be redirected. The answer was RewriteCond. Here’s an example of what I used in my Apache config:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
          RewriteEngine on
          # Exclude css directory from rewrite
          RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/css
          # Print out "static" pages
          RewriteRule /([a-z]+).htm /site.cgi?page=$1
</IfModule>

Of course, the site.cgi script handles whether or not the file exists locally, to prevent remote page calls that can compromise your server very quickly. :)

My beginnings

I started working full time with computers in 1997 for a company called TechServ. During my years of working with them, I became a Windows geek, getting my MCP in Windows 95, and then getting my MCSE in Windows NT. I stayed with the company until 2000, when the company went bellyup because of the dot com fallout.

I went back to school full time after that and worked part time as a system administrator in the Engineering computer lab. It was here that I got my first taste of UNIX (HP-UX) and was really impressed. In 2001, I graduated from Brigham Young University and went to work for Flying J.

After 6 months of traveling every other week, I was able to get a system administrator position, that I held for another 3 years, working with hundreds of Windows NT workstations and UNIX servers (MP-RAS, an ancient and dead version of AT&T’s UNIX). After benefits at Flying J continued to get worse and worse every year, I made the big leap to my current job working for a much smaller company.

Going from a company that has 10,000 employees to one with 5 was quite a shock, but I’ve enjoyed the move thus far. I have now worked for my current employer since December 2004 and am enjoying the opportunity to learn cutting edge technology and advance in my field. Since the company is almost completely a Linux shop, I have almost completely forgotten all of the dumb Windows registry tricks and have replaced that with knowledge of compiling custom kernels.