What's new at the halfbakery?
h a l f b a k e r y
Renovating the wheel
|I knew I shouldn't have left my lunch in the centrifuge
over the weekend.
Happy Halloween from the halfbakery, and I hope your experiments go wrong in interesting ways.
|There's once again some maintainance in the surrounding
building that may leave the halfbakery disconnected by
accident. If it's down today or tomorrow, don't take
it personally. Sorry!|
|Maybe it's Neil Gaiman's proposal to give people
scary books as Halloween gifts that got me to
thinking of Edward Gorey this year - if I had
to give someone a "scary" book, I'd probably go
with Gorey's Gashlycrumb Tinies.
Whether you're big on Halloween or not,
I hope you have something good to read.
And if you've missed this year's Halloween logo,
it's archived along with the others here.|
|Some time today, halfbakery cookies suddenly
stopped working - people tried to log in and didn't
seem logged in, even though they also didn't get an
error message. Some of you complained and didn't
really get a very helpful reply - and then I noticed
it myself. Sorry, sorry. It should all be better now -
there was nothing mysterious going on, just a case
of programmer stupidity.|
|Distributed Denial of Service|
|Computers from all over the world are connecting
in rapid succession to the halfbakery's mail server
and are trying out randomly generated user names.
"Distributed" means that it's coming from lots of
different (hacked) computers, not any one source;
"Denial of Service" means
that it's so much traffic that other legitimate traffic
has trouble getting through to the target system.
I don't think it's personal or limited to just us,
but it's pretty annoying to the owners of the mail
server; so I've taken that link out of DNS until the
attacks have blown over. Which means that e-mail to
email@example.com may bounce, depending on
the state of your DNS server cache.
Until this blows over, I've created a gmail account firstname.lastname@example.org to use instead of the halfbakery one.
|Chance of Power Outage|
|There may or may not be a planned power outage
tonight for some maintenance thing or other;
and even if machines reboot automatically, various
parts of the infrastructure may not, and may instead
be dependent on people being awake, reading
their email, being able to physically enter a
machine room, and so on.
Ah, the joys of virtual ownership.
Anyway, if you can't connect, that's not because
of anything you said, and it's not a sign of the halfbakery's
demise. The halfbakery is not dead.
It's merely pining for the fjords.|
|A MX record tells an e-mail client which host accepts mail for a site.
In keeping with the site's theme, ours was half-broken, giving correspondents
about a 50% chance of reaching a server that would actually accept
mail for the halfbakery. Sorry for the chaos; I guess I didn't understand
the new domain host's user-interface quite as well as I thought.|
|Domain Name Salad|
|The "registrar" of a domain name (like "halfbakery.com") tells a toplevel domain
server (like the one responsible for everything in ".com") who to turn to when
resolving DNS names below that domain.
The halfbakery just changed registars and name servers.
These registries can charge money on a yearly basis for doing almost nothing,
so an old registrar is about as happy to lose business as phone companies are -
but eventually, they have to let you go. It's about a week-long process.
Naive as I am, I expected my old registrar and domain name service provider, Network Solutions, to keep serving the DNS entries even while the registrar change was in progress; after all, I'd paid them to do that until the beginning of June.
Ha. As soon as their responsiblity for the halfbakery.com registration ended, Network Solution's DNS stopped resolving www.halfbakery.com to 220.127.116.11. Instead of the old halfbakery IP address, their name server started to publish the IP address of an ad-hosting boilerplate site completely unrelated to the halfbakery and out of my control as "halfbakery.com". So, that's what people saw instead of the site, for about 24 hours.
By now, the new name server, and the old IP address, should be slowly making it back into local DNS caches.
|The halfbakery was down for about a day and
a half, while I was trying to extract the
database's tail from its jaws.
That was mildly successful, but killed one idea and two annotations, likely recent ones or recently edited ones. Sorry, and nothing personal, really.
|We've moved our address records to a commercial
DNS hosting service, in anticipation of problems with
our old provider. Those updates can take a while
to propagate; if somewhere in between you can't reach
the halfbakery, well, you'll know that the move
wasn't for naught.|
|An update on bristolz' personal site confirms
what her friends had suspected:|
"Early June saw the end of Beez's struggle with illness. She spent her last weeks, happily surrounded by family and close friends, in the warmth of the Gulf of Mexico."
|Later today, this machine will
probably be turned off for about a day.
|In the next couple of weeks, there going to be
lots of small outages, followed by one big one.
(I probably won't know in advance when the big
If it looks like someone pulled the plug on the halfbakery, assume that it was someone other than me, and that service will eventually return.
|We had a brief Domain Name Service outage - not a
problem with the halfbakery itself but with the server
that gets to tell the rest of the world where to
find the halfbakery. I'm not sure whether it's over
yet, but have been promised that everything will be
back to normal by Monday.|
|Partially in order to cut down on the chaos
for our gracious hosts, the halfbakery has moved again,
this time into a machine that is, I am being assured,
faster than the bigger one right next to it.
There will be the usual flurry of misconfigurations and bugs. If it isn't fixed by tomorrow, send e-mail.
|The halfbakery was down all night. The following
things are all going on in parallel: we're moving
to a shiny new machine; the server room around the
old and the new machine is being renovated (dust,
people with sledgehammers, etc.); our
gracious hosts are trying to get a grip on a partially
mysterious server- and system-configuration; and,
just to keep life interesting, there's a flakey KVM
switch in front of the halfbakery that occasionally doesn't
connect you with the machine you think you should
be connected to.
So, it's not the ultra-reliable 24/7 service that you'd like - but in return, everybody gets to keep their day jobs, and you don't have to pay or look at advertisements.
|There's some sort of reconfiguration going
on in the lab surrounding the halfbakery,
causing the network connection to occasionally
drop and come back a few seconds or minutes
later. Sorry about that; I don't get advance
warning either, and don't know if thi|
|Yesterday's outage, in case you noticed,
was caused by a circuit breaker tripping in
the rack around the halfbakery. Not our fault,
and the disk is still holding up; thanks
to everybody who reported it.|
|At precisely midnight between Wednesday and Thursday,
the machine rebooted (leading me to think that it
was scheduled, but I didn't know about it in
advance). Because of a typo in the reboot configuration
file that had gone unnoticed at the last reboot,
httpd failed to restart until someone did notice and
told me about it about an hour later.
But the disk is fine, it really is.|
|Don't you just hate it when you invent
something that turns out to already exists?
There's a little-used accesskey
parameter to <a> and <input> HTML
elements that lets a user follow links and and trigger
button presses with a keyboard - like a "shortcut"
or "accelerator", only for webpages.
Quick reference table for the halfbakery:
Except for the submit button, those letters are highlighted in bold. [Update: ... which prompted more than two people to ask, "what's with the broken layout?" So now, they're no longer bold, but they still work.]
What you have to figure out yourself is how your particular browser deals with those letters. Firefox, for example, likes them with a control- prefix and immediately follows the tagged link.
|Two new short editorial
items: a report about the
rebuild in the aftermath of
October's disk crash; and a
gallery of past logos.|
|There is some very, very
conservative support for
inline illustrations hosted on
the halfbakery webserver.
Posting illustrations is limited
to people who are accredited as
illustrators with the site.
I'm trying to limit this group
to people with talent, style or,
at the very least, pizzazz.
If you would like to be an illustrator, talk to the site maintainers.
If you don't like images on your ideas or on your webpages, there are two new options in your user profile you can turn off - one turns off image display to you, while you're browsing; the second one means that illustrators are asked to leave your ideas alone.
|Yay, I finally managed to insert
another column into the database.
.. and then installed a version
of the halfbakery that used the
old database schema on the new
data, corrupting some of the ideas
that were voted on after the install,
and showing annotations on ideas
that had nothing to do with them and
were not, in fact, posted on those
Oh well. At least we no longer have ideas that don't know where their categories are at all.
|Another couple of ideas from my
google cache that weren't in the
first batch made it in. Not many
of them were really new since 2004,
but we got at least futurebird's
"Dont forget your dreams" alarm
clock back and "not only but also"'s
"Sushi train art".|
|We received another donation of 900 ideas
that someone had cached with only minor
changes to the URLs in them.
The first injections had sometimes created duplicate annotations, typically at the end of the list, all from the same day. I wrote, and ran, a tool that may have removed those dupes.
Search works again, ideas have their names in the titles again, and the user-page automatic URL markup no longer eats the surrounding punctuation.
As [krelnik] points out, the id numbers for newer users and ideas have changed, and views that depended on them may do weird things.
Thanks to everybody who complained.
|With a second ad-hoc parser, we've now added about
8000 low-resolution copies of halfbakery ideas to the
restored set of 15000 cached copies. There was a
lot of overlap, but if something of yours was gone
yesterday, and is there now, it might have been restored
from this set. Either that, or the withdrawal has
made you see things.
A lot of people have trouble logging in with old cookies. With sartep's help, we've finally tracked down that bug and fixed it.
Some of the older accounts had no permission flags and were treated by the halfbakery as if they were search engines. All users now have normal human permissions.
The search page no longer forgets that a user is logged in. The search database will be out of date for a little while, while the restorations are going on.
I've removed the blocking robots.txt file to let the waybackmachine (www.archive.org) back in, which means that the archives there are accessible again. If you see an idea there that you are missing from the halfbakery, please send me the URL (or list of URLs). Do *not* send me the HTML; I'll get it myself. Just the URLs. One per line. In a text document.
|The halfbakery was out for about a month after its
disk self-destructed irrecoverably. What you
see here is stitched together from a copy of the
source code from 2003, a copy of the data from 2002,
and various google-cached ideas.
What a mess.
This system is still barely limping along (it still has the bugs I fixed in 2004, for one), so please be a little patient with bugs. I try to fix what I can, but it'll obviously take a while until things are back to normal.
If you had an account created after 2002, and you want access to it, please send a short, informal request to <email@example.com>. Include your password, if you remember it.
I owe a huge debt to Fishrat, who set up a temporary replacement forum, the "fakebakery", in almost no time; to egnor, whose google scraping I'm trusting just a little more than my own, and to all of you who offered your time help and are patient both with the recovery and the loss. Thanks. It's nice to have you all back.
|The hardware location surrounding the halfbakery was hit by
a double-whammy of planned outage (it was just that nobody
had told us about it) and snow storm. The good news
is that nothing is wrong with the halfbakery machine itself;
it's just the surrounding facility that needed first maintenance,
then a bit of shoveling.|
|Memories of halfbakery regular runforrestrun, who was killed by
a drunk driver, are collected here.|
|Thanks for all the complaints! It turns out that a search index
that had been regenerated smaller than before the move hadn't been
physically truncated, leaving nonsensical data at the end that the
new system sometimes tried to use when updating its search database.
That meant that, after first executing the changes a user had requested,
the halfbakery crashed for some people but not for others,
depending on who the users were and what they had written.
Sorry for the additional downtime, and thank you for your patience; it should be better now.
|Hear that echo when you post an idea?
That's ten gigs of empty space, baby.
We finally managed to move the halfbakery
to a different platform
and a different disk.
I've tried not to otherwise move the furniture,
but something always gets broken - so complain
if you notice something out of place.|
|We tried to move again, but did get even less far
than last time. Instead, an unrelated bug caused
the halfbakery root page to break down the day
after; that's now fixed.|
|Last night, one of the moderators and
halfbakery regulars, Michael "Miles" Thorne
aka mighty_cheese, lost the fight with depression
he had been leading for the last years,
and killed himself.
Sorry to see you go, Miles. We miss you.
|We'll tried moving to a new platform, but were thwarted
by a recalcitrant router. Sorry for the inconvenince -
we'll try again.|
|The halfbakery now has five fresh
co-moderators with the same rather wide-ranging
permissions as the site's owner. (They can't see
who votes for what, but they can throw people
out and delete ideas.) Cut them some slack; they're new
to this, and they're giving away a lot of their time
for a rather thankless task.
If you ever feel they're abusing their powers, complain to firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not end up agreeing with you, but I'll at keep the complaint confidential, so if I don't, there's not much harm done.
|We may or may not be down for a
sorely needed OS upgrade later today.
Sorry for the short notice.|
|Well, I'm not sure about the "fast" part,
but at least some parts of the system are
a little bit faster than before.
Tread gently. This is very, very beta. Since the database is now binary, it may break in more interesting ways than the text-based database we used so far; if we still have an intact halfbakery tomorrow, I'll consider myself a very lucky programmer indeed.
|If everything goes as planned, the
halfbakery will be down for most of the day
but emerge with a fast new database layer
and the ability for users to modify the
search and filtering parameters of their
|There was another crash this morning;
we still don't know what it is, and data
was lost between Sunday evening and the
Monday morning crash. (Both log files and
database were affected, so there's no way
of restoring lost submissions - sorry.)
We've switched back to the previous,
smaller, disk, but this would still
be a bad time to post the only copy of
your first novel to the halfbakery.|
|We're having hardware trouble again.
Maybe it's the disk, maybe it's the
controller. If the halfbakery
host appears to be down, that's probably
the reason. Either that, or an attempt
to fix it by exchanging some part of
|The halfbakery root file system ate itself
during a power outage in the early morning hours
of Sunday, taking out the site completely.
No halfbakery data was lost;
it just took a while to get the person who could
detect a boot block version error into sufficient
proximity to the boot block version error in question.
Everything should be back to normal now.
Thanks to everybody who let me know about the failure.
[Update: No, everthing wasn't back to normal - the user table was trashed. I hope that was connected to the crash; if not, we have a problem. As always, thanks for complaining.]
In the wake of this crash, we may change disks and/or processors, and there will be some, hopefully shorter, downtime connected to that.
|The trickle of "sircam"
e-mail virus messages that the bakesperson account has
been getting has now swollen to more than a dozen a day
and had me worried about my account's disk quota, so
I'm using a few
rules to throw them out.
(More information about the virus itself:
[Update: Oh, and also - if someone sends you a story about
Snowwhite and the seven dwars with an attached
.exe (that one might think contains the punchline) -
don't open that. It'll only end up infecting your
computer and sending me email in a feeble attempt to
|For the last few months, a combination of bad
design and small coding errors had led to small
blemishes in the site's search cache. Searches
missed a few notes and links, but rarely ideas,
and I had ignored the bug as both difficult and minor.
On Thursday, that changed to difficult and major. Rather than just skipping a few entries, a linked chain of entries pointed back into itself, causing traversals of that chain to loop forever. That was behind the time-outs users experienced when adding annotations and ideas. (When new text is added, the search data structures are updated, and those updates got caught in an endless loop.)
This is now fixed, search is back online, and additions and edits should proceed at their normal pace. Thanks to everyone who sent email about it.
|In order to install more diskspace,
the halfbakery went
offline for a few hours late in the
|The help text has a new section on the
|no news is|
|Editing or deleting a note or idea
now no longer updates the idea's modified
date (i.e., the idea no longer pops to
the front page).|
|The halfbakery crashed whenever
someone used an upper-case iso-8859-1
special character such as Á, È,
Ü, Ý. Apparently, nobody
had ever tried that and lived to tell
about the failure.|
|The halfbakery stores user account information
in cookies restricted to the domain
"www.halfbakery.com". But there are
at least 68 different ways of actually
addressing the halfbakery host in a browser.
Since the sending of cookies to a site is controlled by simple case-insensitive string matches, this means that people going to, say, "half-bakery.com" see a site, but don't get their cookie sent by their browser.
The latest change tries to fix that by automatically redirecting anyone not using the canonical hostname to the canonical hostname.
|"Other: Halfbakery" has finally been broken
up into its own "Halfbakery:" major category
(completing the 3x4 grid). I had been resisting
that in order to signal "Enough with the
suggestions, already!", but it really wasn't
XXL and XXXL people can now order t-shirts that fit them.
To summarize, more space for everybody.
|lost for words|
|The Halfbakery categories "Other: Words",
"Other: Words Wanted",
and "Other: Phrases" will be closed
and their contents deleted about a week from now.
They were (or, will have been) a disconnected part of the halfbakery that doesn't lend itself to structuring other than alphabetically, and there is already a site on the web that does that. If you have ideas in these categories that you want to preserve for posterity, please move them over to the nice folks at www.pseudodictionary.com. I think you'll find them hospitable, now that they have message boards and an "all your words are belong to us" motto on their t-shirt.
There may be some sort archival effort, and there's always old logfiles, so if you feel you've lost a valuable annotation or idea in the deletion, send email.
|Early morning Wednesday, no annotations and links
could be posted because the halfbakery disk had run over.
Logfiles have been shuffled around and compressed to
get some space in the short term,
and more disk will eventually be added to the system.
Thanks to everybody who complained!|
|lower power hour|
|The halfbakery will shut down for about an hour
to fix something in the power distribution Thurman
|poorly planned outage|
|(And poorly announced outage; the date was wrong until
after the event.)
Some time in the next couple of days, the halfbakery's
OS platform will be upgraded to a new version. This will
take down the site for a short while. If accesses fail
or time out, please stay calm and retry a few hours later.|
|The December 2000 issue of Ziff-Davis's "Yahoo Internet Life"
had a brief writeup on the halfbakery
in its "Pretty Strange" section, which isn't our first mention
on paper (I believe the UK Independent was first), but
it's the first one I've actually looked at with mine own eyes.
"RON POPEIL WANNA-BES TAKE NOTE: You'll find more infomercial fodder than you can shake a Poket Fisherman at in the Halfbakery. Whether you'd like to market pockets for nudists, fat-eating bacteria, vanity postage stamps, edible Post-it Notes, frozen toast, or Carni-Food (meat that's shaped to look like vegetables), you're sure to find "the only product you'll ever need" -- several of them, in fact. Why live any longer without chocolate lard?"
Congratulations! Now, about that WiReD cover...
|Visitors can now search ideas, annotations,
The vote display has changed from linear to logarithmic. Please, no Florida recount jokes.
|In annotations, user descriptions,
and idea descriptions, <br>
now translates into a line break,
as it would in HTML.|
|The halfbakery is being more
strongly moderated; in particular,
redundant ideas are thrown out
as they are noticed.
Read before you post.
There is a top 10-ish list. There will not be a bottom 10-ish list.
Ideas can now be renamed.
|A much-needed makeover introduces two major
features: voting and stronger support for
(It also introduces lots and lots of bugs;
thanks for your patience.)
All ideas have been regrouped, and will probably move around more in the next days.
The alphabetization has been fixed to skip punctuation (like double quote marks).
Double clicks on the submit button while adding an idea no longer result in two ideas.
|Setting a password from empty to non-empty
corrupted the stored record of the user who attempted it.
It then became impossible to log out, edit,
or delete that account.
Apologies to anyone who just silently gave up;
thanks to the two who, almost a year apart, complained
and helped me find out what was going on.
On a similar token, netscape's system had trouble downloading a RSS file with empty description tags, leading to occasional out-of date databases on my.netscape.com; that's fixed, too.
|Cookies from this site used to be sent
without expiry date, meaning that users
had to log in after each browser restart.
They're now sent with an expiry date some
10 years into the future.|
|This site doesn't place technical
restrictions on what people can
post, but I do reserve (and occasionally
exercise) the right to throw out
obviously bogus or abusive submissions, or to
fix stale links.|
|To accomodate literal /-es in idea
names, their encoding had to be changed.
Please report any broken links or
odd-looking titles, or problems with
other special characters.|
|On Thursday, www.memepool.com
becomes the first larger resource
to link to us, and Halfbakery clocks
a quarter of its total traffic in
that day. Not quite like being
slashdotted, but .. dotted maybe ..
Suddenly, the redesigns and extensions
I wanted to do "once this catches on"
are a lot more urgent than before.|
|The halfbakery moved to a different
kind of hardware, a new version of
the same OS, a slightly different apache
If you feel like you lost data
due to the move, send email to
email@example.com, and we'll
try to find it on the old system.|
|When one logged in mid-way through
entering an idea, the text and summary
were erased; that no longer happens,
and the page also no longer shows an
error message complaining about not enough
data being entered.|
|Netscape users under Unix didn't
get their textareas filled-in
when editing annotations and
ideas. Sorry 'bout that.
The halfbakery also crashed with an error message when displaying the page for a user, but I don't think anyone who didn't look at the logs noticed anything strange.
|The halfbakery sent its "set-cookie"
commands with bad syntax; some browsers
stomached that, some didn't. After that
bad syntax has been fixed, users of
Internet Explorer 3.0 should have a
much easier time.
When one selects "Create an account" without fililng in the "User" and Pass" fields, all one got back was a "500 internal server error"; that's fixed now, too.
Kudos to my gracious and smart beta-testers.
|HTML is font hell. I'm trying to
look good, consistent, and not like
everyody else, but in an unpredictable
environment where new operating system
and browser releases battle user configurations
through bad interfaces for a chance to
screw things up, I don't have a prayer.
If the halfbakery looks bad on your platform, and you want to spend some time trying to make it look better (and paticularly if you have ideas on how to do that from the server end!), send me email and we'll hack our way around things.
In other news, there's now an "are you sure?" screen after the delete-idea menu option, and a new overview screen that mixes recent modifications with an alphabetical index.
Some people have had trouble changing their passwords with IE 3.0. On my side, it looks as if the string sent by the browser starts with a newline, but I haven't yet figured out why.
|Buttons, buttons, the world needs more buttons.
"Restore" buttons next
to "Update" buttons where appropriate; little
redundant "annotate" and "link" buttons around an idea.
There's a new welcome message for new accounts encouraging users to edit their description; no leading white space in the by-date ideas list; no trailing white space in the links list; editing an annotation now HTML-quotes the annotation's text correctly.
Thanks to everybody who complained!
|Everything is new.|
|Working on the "What's New" page.|