Dreamhost and hosting issues

So, at about 8.40am today, I noticed my sites (fadingwhispers.org and janetalkstech.com) were rather sluggish. I managed to post a comment on Fading Whispers before both sites went dark i.e. were not accessible on the internet. I didn’t panick and kept refreshing a couple of times. After ~2 hrs of waiting and anxiously refreshing Firefox, I finally sent a support ticket to Dreamhost and a little under an hour later, I got a response that the server that my sites were on, needed a reboot and that things should be back to normal. In the meantime, I was advised by the Dreamhost representative that I should disable the All in One SEO Plugin because it was “known to cause major issues on shared servers.” He also helpfully noted that I was running a WordPress site and directed me to some WordPress troubleshooting tips (perhaps my little trafficked site’s plugins were interfering). I dutifully deleted plugins that were not active on both sites. Also, since it was only Fading Whispers that was acessible after being informed of the server being rebooted, I deactivated plugins that I could live without i.e. OpenID plugin for WordPress which I discovered (from the WordPress article) could be problematic on shared servers, the All in One SEO Plugin, ELA Archives, BDP Setup and some more.

It is currently 10pm and Jane Talks Tech! is still down because (according to a second response from Dreamhost to my support ticket), the server my site is on has been experiencing “intermittent” downtime. Intermittent, my butt. It’s been the whole freaking day! I’m just happy this happened on the weekend when traffic is the least. However, I’m not happy at the downtime because I had some posts I needed to churn out which will be delayed because of this. I’ll update this post as new developments occur.

What’s up? :)

Well, well. It’s been a long while, dontcha say? What have I been up to? Other than working, I’ve been playing with my two babies (Matt and my laptop). ๐Ÿ˜€

  1. I finally bit the bullet and activated Bitlocker Hard Drive Encryption on my HP dv9700t laptop. It is not as bad as I feared and I’m actually surprised at how smooth it has been. The process of encrypting my disk took place overnight and I was ready to roll the next morning. I haven’t noticed any performance issues. If anything has been wonky, it’s the encryption file system that I’d been using to protect some of my files. What Bitlocker does is whole disk encryption and this pretty much renders your computer’s actual disk useless to someone who wants to know what’s on the disk, but doesn’t have the key. I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps needing my USB key before my computer can boot up is not such a bad idea and probably more secure. One of the scenarios that has played out in my head is if for some reason, my laptop gets snagged by a less than trustworthy TSA agent, they can’t do squat with the laptop.
  2. The other thing that I finally got around to doing was testing out the ReadyBoost feature of Windows Vista. I purchased a SanDisk 2GB Extreme III SD Memory Card (SDSDX3-002G, Bulk Package) and I can say that since I already have 4GBs of memory, I don’t think my computer’s any faster. To my jaundiced eye, methinks the card I got is bogging my computer down. Hmmph. Anyhow, I got the card for less than $14 so I’m keeping it for good luck. lol.
  3. My cheapo mini-mouse finally died on me and I didn’t waste any time in getting a ‘real’ mouse from Logitech. It’s a good old-fashioned USB mouse because I’m done trusting newfangled items like bluetooth mice(?), etc. Remember my experience with the Logitech bluetooth mouse?
  4. I’m having a hard time with Nvidia’s apparently buggy drivers for my 64 bit Vista laptop with the Nvidia GeForce 8600M GS graphics chip. How hard can it be to produce something that won’t cause my computer heartburn? The drivers on their website won’t work for me and HP’s website doesn’t have any information on this issue. One more bluescreen because of my Nvidia GeForce 8600M GS graphics card and I will be calling HP technical support for an upgrade. Trust me, I’ve become an expert at knowing my rights when it comes to these things. Right now, I’m just waiting for HP’s premium headset to break again on me and they had better be ready to put up with me.

That’s pretty much about it. I’m looking forward to having a great week and I wish you all the same!

Getting back to my roots. :)

Sorry, this post is not going to be deep contrary to what my title says. lol. By my roots, I mean my neosoul-loving former self. l have not been able to get enough of Vivian Greene’s “Emotional Rollercoaster” or Floetry’s “Say Yes”. Those songs sound awesome on my Creative I-Trigue system which I got for a steal at $50 and even better through my HP premium headset. Those songs pump me up while at work and are the secret behind my ever-present smile(s) at work. I’m sure I’m already a constant fixture in many people’s minds for my bouncy walk and ever-ready smile. It makes me feel good to just smile even though I have problems. It’s totally worth seeing the smiles get lit within people when they see me being all infectiously happy. ๐Ÿ™‚ I really love the environment at my workplace and that makes all the difference because it makes me want to haul ass free of charge! lol.

In other news, I sustained a mild injury at work. I’m inclined to call it a major injury, but the learned bosses and my smart husband have concluded that it’s “not a big deal”. Try telling that to my hurting left hand which got all swollen up to the size of a small egg. ๐Ÿ™ Anyhow, I put an icepack on it and it kept the swelling down. My diagnosis (by the 4 DVMs or doctors of veterinary medicine) was that I had busted a blood vessel. One of these days, I’ll regale my children with tales of their mother’s clumsiness.

In yet other news, my HP premium headset broke. I got that blasted thing on the 20th of September and it’s broken already! Matt can attest to the loving care I bestow on my electronics so it was definitely not operator error. I say that HP has a defective design. Accordingly, I called the warranty line (HP Premium Digital Stereo Headset manuals) and got told that they couldn’t help me because I didn’t have the box which had the serial number on it. Why HP doesn’t engrave the serial numbers on the headsets? I have no earthly clue. Well, this is where Matt, my knight in shining armor, comes in. He simply took it to the returns department at a certain unnamed retail store and they gave us/him a brand new HP premium headset. At first blush, I was ecstatic, but I’m now extremely suspicious because I might not get lucky a second time. So, when I get home from hanging out with Matt, I’ll scan my receipt that documents the exchange of the defective HP product for the new HP product and write down the relevant numbers and such. I knew it paid to be paranoid. Now, I’m 100% certain it does. From today, I’ll try will scan all receipts that show purchase of heavy duty items like electronics and other precious items. lol.

With that, have a happy friday! Lawdy, ya’ll, I was slogging at work today! I couldn’t stop yawning and it felt like the day had an extra hour tagged onto it! I’m relieved to be off work and just chilling out. However, knowing me, I’m also up to something that’s pretty cool if I may say so myself. ๐Ÿ˜€ I am giving Remote Administrator a trial. What is Remote Administrator? It’s basically a way of remotely administering your home/work/whatchamacallit computer. I have successfully connected to my HP pavilion desktop pc from my laptop using Radmin 3.2 Remote Control and even Matt was suitably impressed. The best thing about having this type of control over my home computer is that I won’t have to constantly carry the same files on both laptops e.g. I can keep things that I’m not ready to dispose of, but might have a need for on my home computer. Sadly, I had used my local address to connect and now that I’m away from the house, I need the external IP address. So, I’m just listening to my music library on Windows media player and sipping on some Hennessy. I kid about the alcohol part, but I am in that kinda mood, feel me? ๐Ÿ˜€

Which brings me to the topic of media on the PC. On my desktop PC, I use the Creative MediaSource player for listening to my music and video files. However, I decided to give Windows Media Player 11 a whirl on my Vista Ultimate Laptop and I have to confess that I wonder what had been stopping me from trying it all this while (at least on my laptop). If you recall, I had to reformat my laptop and Creative MediaSource had been a minor irritation on my system. So far, I’m loving the way it integrates with my Creative Zen Sleek Photo player seamlessly and its organization of my music files is to die for. I can’t imagine going back to Creative MediaSource just yet. Still, some small part of me feels like giving up Creative MediaSource for Windows Media Player is an admission that sometimes it doesn’t pay to fight the power, if you get my drift. I mean it’s often best to use things made by the PC manufacturer for the maximum compatibility i.e. instead of Thunderbird, learn how Microsoft Outlook works and make it work & instead of some alternative media player, learn to love Windows Media player. lol. I’m tired of fighting. ๐Ÿ™‚

Last but not the least, the reunion (representing Matt’s maternal side of the family) is tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.

Namaste.

An Update on my HP dv9700t.

Alright, dad, I know you’re sick of me talking about my laptop, but I just wanted to provide a status update because I’ve gotten a couple of google queries to certain posts I’ve written concerning my laptop. Several things have changed since I wrote posts like this, this and this. In those posts, I wrote about the fingerprint reader royally sucking. I whined about the Windows Mobile Device Center not working with my Palm Treo 750 and I complained about the lack of a TPM-compatible BIOS on my laptop & not having a TPM to begin with! I’ll start with the first biggest change:

  1. I reinstalled Vista Ultimate on my laptop. When I first got the laptop, I didn’t uninstall certain programs correctly like Cyberlink’s Cybercrapware, et cetera. I also installed a bunch of programs that weren’t 64 bit compatible and they ended up making my laptop rather buggy. So, I called up HP and told them to send me my system restore discs because I was unable to make mine from the laptop. They graciously obliged me and it took about a day for everything to be restored to normal. It was rather painless too. My initial Windows Experience Index score was the same as the first time I received the laptop (i.e. a 4.6). I installed the usual suspects: Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007, Adobe Acrobat Professional 8.1.2, et cetera and updated them all. After installing my essential programs, my WEI score popped back to a 5.0. A quick tip for software updates: always make sure you update the programs by running the builtin HP Update (I’m using version 4.000.011.006). A lot of my troubles came from bypassing that easy way to update the programs and I went directly to theร‚ย  manufacters’ websites where I got the latest, but notร‚ย  necessarily guaranteed to playร‚ย  nice with my HP Laptop.
  2. My fingerprint reader by DigitalPersona is now my Best Friend Forever (BFF). lol. You see, they had released an update to make it compatible with Firefox 3.0 and Internet Explorer 7.0 and now I’m totally spoiled. Granted, I’m not a finger-scanning expert like Matt who gets it on one try, but it’s worth not tasking my fingers too muchร‚ย  and not to talk of the increased security i.e. not having to type my username & password for anyone to see.
  3. Vista and Bitlocker Drive Encryption woes: Well, at this point, I’m sort of resigned to the fact that HP technical support staff is deliberately playing dumb on this issue. All they have to confirm to me is that they do not equip their consumer dv9700t with the TPM chip and I’ll be fine. Right now, my system is set up to enable Bitlocker Drive encryption, but I’ll have to be inconvenienced by using a USB key all the time. Anyway, I think I’m better off without Bitlocker for now. I’ll probably be better served by simply securing my laptopร‚ย  better and perhaps investing in remote control software like RealVNC, etc.
  4. Windows Mobile Device Center is my second BFF now.ร‚ย  I can sync my information via bluetooth and the cable that came with my laptop. I didn’t have to install any updates or anything. I simply followed instructions and everything went smoothly. The first time you want to connect your phone, use the cable provided. Vista just automates everything and really, just follow the on-screen instructions. ๐Ÿ™‚
  5. TV Tuner brouhaha: I don’t need no stinkin’ TV tuner! ๐Ÿ˜€ Okay, it’s theoretically nice, but in reality, it was a bunch of extra cords and baggage that I definitely didn’t like one bit. I’ll just stick to watching my favorite shows on Hulu like The Office, Hell’s Kitchen, Monk, Kitchen Nightmares, etc.
  6. I’ve made up with Microsoft Outlook 2007. I’ve promised to not start clicking on things while it’s still loading and she seems to be alright. She keeps clashing with the “Send to Bluetooth” addin and lately, has had some trouble with the Outlook Connector addin. Still, I’ve kept those two enabled and keeping my digits crossed. ๐Ÿ™‚
  7. I have had some major peeves though: cases in point: Firefox and Gizmo. Firefox 3.0 has been rather unstable and slow on my system. I don’t understand it, but I clearly too invested in it because I’d rather keep using it than use Internet Explorer or install a newfangled browser like Google Chrome which caused me some trouble prior to my OS reinstall. *sigh* And as for Gizmo, don’t get me started. I use it a lot to call Nigeria (my homeland) and it is rather buggy on a 64-bit Vista system. I don’t blame them. It just got too much for me to take and I had to request a refund of my Gizmo Call Out minutes. I’ve currently got Skype concurrently installed with Gizmo and I get a better call quality with Skype even though the main reason I used Gizmo was the cheaper callout rates compared to Skype’s. I definitely see myself still using Gizmo for chat, et cetera. However, until they improve the software for Vista 64-bit systems, I’ll have to use a more mature program i.e. Skype.

And that’s about it on updates. More personal stuff to come later. Ciao!

A long day and then some

I got up this morning with a spring in my step. The reason? The first exam of the semester was today. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not mine, silly. I’m merely a facilitator. We (the professors and I) hauled asses to make this happen and by all accounts, it was better than last year. That comment by the powers that be made my day/morning because I know that my efforts weren’t wasted. Cleanup was a ridiculous affair and I’m dreading the inevitable “where’s my dog’s forelimb” questions I will be inundated with when lab convenes tomorrow. Still, I think things went well and I look forward to seeing the scores and the fun task of putting their scores into a spreadsheet, etc. lol. It’s fun being on the other side of the equation and seeing how teachers set exam questions, etc.

I realize I never talked about the fun weekend I had. Well, I don’t remember how Saturday went. Actually, I do. My mind chose to blank it out because it was horrible. Thankfully, Sunday more than made up for Saturday’s fiasco. lol. I won’t name names, but trust me when I say my experience on Saturday nearly made me pull my little hair out. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s reallyร‚ย  not that serious so don’t go worrying, mom & dad. Anyhow, my week is shaping up nicely. It’s been really hectic, but I’ve been equal to the task thus far and gotten some compliments along the way. I am, however, not looking forward to digging through scores of embalmed dogs to look for my professor’s prosector dog. lol. I forced myself to make to-do list today and I got a lot of stuff accomplished. I really love my job although it’s really getting crazy. I survived the first exam experience and I’m looking forward to a smoother exam experience.

SSH tunneling and more

Figuring out SSH et al

Okay, so I talked about how I finally set up Firefox to tunnel my HTTP traffic through an SSH tunnel. However, Internet Explorer was a different story. It’s a different story because it touches back on the reasons Firefox is still my default brower i.e. plugins. With Internet Explorer, henceforth known as IE, I can’t toggle things on and off with the ease I do so with Firefox. Currently, the setup I have with Firefox is: I can fire up my SSH connection, but choose (thanks to the SwitchProxy plugin) if I want to connect through the SSH tunnel or not. With IE, I either have to use the SSH tunnel all the time or not at all because turning the tunnel on means always having to go into Internet Connections settings and making the changes manually. I finally just figured out how to set it up correctly in IE so I’m happy anyway. I just need to remember to turn it off once I get home or get back to a trusted wireless network because for reasons I don’t really understand, IE’s connection settings seem to be the default for programs like Windows Update, Outlook, etc to connect to the internet even though I’ve clearly selected Mozilla Firefox to be my default browser. I’m certain I have gotten some facts wrong so please feel free to correct me. I went a little crazy on Facebook today. lol. I posted 3 videos (1 of my niece, the 2nd one starring yours truly and the 3rd featured M!). He’s gets a little camera shy so go check the video out and see for yourself. With that, I’m signing out. Not. ๐Ÿ™‚

Getting ticked off at HP and others

Okay, just when I thought my laptop woes were over. I finally decided to tackle the problem of Bitlocker Drive Encryption not being able to run on my laptop. The first HP agent I had was really competent and for the first time, I had the support technician look into my laptop remotely. All she did was basically enable me to bypass the TPM requirement for Bitlocker Drive Encryption to run. Now, I didn’t bargain on having to purchase an extra USB key so I could use an item that was supposedly supported by the manufacturer or else they would have stated explicitly that you will need an extra USB key in order to use the full capabilities of your laptop. For the record, I own the HP dv9700t customized notebook. I just spent a little over 2 hrs on the phone (total) with HP agents and the final “answer” I’ve received is that I need to pay close to $50 for their SmartFriends program because the issue is not a software or hardware problem. Right. Whatever. Because of their pigheadedness, I’m going to go ahead with their recommendation. I am going to reformat my laptop. Yes, you heard me. lol. This might turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth, but I believe in fighting for what is rightfully mine and in this case, what is rightfully mine is the right to have a computer that supports the full capabilities of the Bitlocker Drive Encryption utility which was the main reason I got up-sold to get Microsoft Vista Ultimate on this laptop! I’m really getting irked by this. For now, I’m just glad that the support technician did her magic and that I can actually use Bitlocker. The catch for me now is: am I willing to remember to insert a USB key into my laptop every time I need to boot up for the sake of privacy and security? I don’t have any government secrets on my laptop, but I’ve become increasingly aware (maybe a bit paranoid) of how insecure our communications are. As a test, I fired up Wireshark on my laptop and started up an instant messaging conversation using Gizmo. Guess what? I was able to piece the conversation back together from the packets which were broadcast in clear-text over the wireless network? Phew, remind me not to talk about too sensitive matters over chat networks that aren’t Skype (which I believe is encrypted). For the record, my Bitdefender Internet Security 2009 tool supports IM encryption of Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger so maybe I do need to quick being so picky about things (Bitlocker, etc) and just adapt to fit what my laptop does support. *sigh* I just hate settling for second best, sometimes.