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Month: April 2012

U+1F4A9 Successfully Deployed

Today I successfully employed one of the new characters in Unicode 6.0, U+1F4A9, also known as PILE OF POO (dog dirt). (See the table and list of names here.)

Needing a separate, sealing garbage can for Roxie’s collected poop I grabbed a spare one from the basement, but I figured it needed some manner of appropriate labeling. This did it. I printed it on a full-page label, sealed it with packing tape, cut it out, and stuck it in place. Hopefully the can will also help keep the garage from smelling like fresh poop on warm days.

Check out this page for more information on this character and to see if your browser and installed fonts support it. Hopefully it does.

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Fox Lake Road May Be Impassable

Yesterday’s ride took Erik, Nick, and I out west to visit an area that we’d only heard about and Erik was anxious to see, Fox Lake Road. I was not disappointed, as the segment between Honert Rd and County Line Rd. / Washburn Rd. was some nice hills in the quite-attractive Ortonville Recreation Area.

Starting out from the Clarkston Road crossing of the Paint Creek Trail we ended up around 69 miles for the day, and a moving time of just a smidge over 5.5 hours. This met my goal, but I seem to have failed to keep my heart rate high enough for some parts of the ride. For much of it (likely while climbing) I had it fairly high, but on the flatter segments (and likely longer downhills) it dropped lower than I should have kept it. Hopefully this’ll be okay… While tired I had enough energy left at the end of the ride yesterday to make a decent effort on the Miller Rd. hills, so hopefully I won’t have problems with next weekend’s 5.5 – 6 hour ride, and whatever comes after that…

Here’s two more photos from yesterday:

· Inside the Men’s changing area at Bald Mountain State Recreation Area’s Lower Trout Lake beach.
· Titus Racer X 29er laying in some leaves along Fox Lake Road when stopping to take a break.

Now, off to Stony Creek to build some single track.

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Poopy Avocado

This morning’s breakfast organic avocado from Whole Foods has bird poop on it. This amuses me. Not that it’s a problem, since the skin is essentially just a wrapper.

(Amusingly, this is one of the best avocados I’ve had in Michigan in a while. There’s no bruising, it ripened nicely on the counter, and it’s quite tasty. Danielle chose well while at the store.)

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Marked Bottle

This evening I finally got around to marking up some of my water bottles with one-third and half marks. Since I frequently mix up two or three hours worth of sports drink stuff in them (typically from Infinit Nutrition) I like to drink half or one third of the bottle per hour. I’d previously guessed at what 1/3 and 1/2 of the volume would be, but apparently I was a bit off. The dent in the bottle must have thrown me a bit.

By the time these markings wear off I’ll likely have these levels memorized and won’t need to redo them.

(Note that this bottle contains enough mix to meet my caloric needs for three hours of riding. Despite being filled to just below the Breakaway Bicycles & Fitness logo it’ll all dissolve pretty readily in one bottle of water.)

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Nupla PA375-LESG Pulaski Axe

Wednesday evening UPS delivered my new Pulaski, a tool combining an axe and an adz, and commonly used in wilderness firefighting and trail construction. I’ve been borrowing one for the past year or so but I wanted my own, so I looked around and ended up picking up this one, a Nupla PA375-LESG.

Made in the US and available from Amazon for ~$53 it seemed like a pretty reasonable purchase. I particularly like the ribbed handle which should make it feel a bit more solid when used with wet hands.

I also added this photo to the Wikipedia Pulaski article because it previously didn’t have a good photo of the tool’s head; just a man swinging the tool, with the head lost in shadows.

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Boulevard Connector?

While out riding to Lake Orion and back on Tuesday I noticed that the construction of the connector between the Paint Creek Trail and the Kern Road safety path (near the Clarkston / Kern / PCT intersection) is nearing completion and it appears that the base of it will split into a boulevard (with a median / central reservation).

If this is the case and the extra path isn’t just for construction access it’ll be nice. This is a notoriously blind corner and coming down this path towards the PCT currently requires some careful looking and neck craning to be sure one doesn’t ride out in front of someone else. Hopefully this’ll improve the sight lines and make for a better intersection.

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Timeouts with PHP as FastCGI, phpBB + reCAPTCHA + DNSBL, Apache 2.2, mod_fcgi, and FastCgiExternalServer

Sunday evening after migrating the MMBA Forum to a new webserver I received email from a user claiming that they were unable to sign up for the forum, receiving an 500 Internal Server Error some time after clicking submit. The problem ended up being the signup page taking longer than expected to run and timing out and was resolved by increasing the timeout by adding -idle-timeout 60 to the FastCgiExternalServer line in the vhost’s config.

More specifically, I’d just moved from an older server running lighttpd to a new one using the venerable Apache HTTP Server v2.2. Both setups had per-vhost FastCGI setups pointing to PHP instances running as the user who owned the vhost, which helps ensure that compromised PHP apps affect only files/sites owned by that the user.

For example, lighttpd would be set up something like this:

fastcgi.server = ( ".php" =>
  ( "socket" => "/var/run/php-fastcgi/username/username-php-fastcgi.sock",
    "check-local" => "disable",
    "broken-scriptfilename" => "enable"

Apache uses something like this:

FastCgiExternalServer /var/run/php-fastcgi/vhosts/ -socket /var/run/php-fastcgi/users/username/username-php-fastcgi.sock
AddHandler php-fastcgi .php
Action php-fastcgi /php-fastcgi
Alias /php-fastcgi /var/run/php-fastcgi/vhosts/

During the forum signup, to help cut down on the number of spammy accounts created, there are both reCAPTCHA and DNS Blacklist checks that occur before the account creation actually happens. These were taking longer than the default 30 second timeout, causing the FastCGI interface to time out and close the connection, resulting in log entries such as this:

[Sun Apr 15 20:00:09 2012] [error] [client] FastCGI: comm with server "/var/run/php-fastcgi/vhosts/" aborted: idle timeout (30 sec)

This led me to increase the FastCgiExternalServer timeout in mod_fastcgi by adding -idle-timeout 60, doubling it from its default, as follows:

FastCgiExternalServer /var/run/php-fastcgi/vhosts/ -socket /var/run/php-fastcgi/users/username/username-php-fastcgi.sock -idle-timeout 60
AddHandler php-fastcgi .php
Action php-fastcgi /php-fastcgi
Alias /php-fastcgi /var/run/php-fastcgi/vhosts/

The problem then went away.

I’m not exactly sure why this cropped up with the move to Apache, but I suspect that on lighttpd there was a considerably longer default timeout. This can be set in the lighttpd config by setting idle-timeout, but I wasn’t able to easily figure out what the default is. It’s possible I’ll have to further tune this further in the future, but at least I now know why the problem was occurring.

Yes, I know this isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s been proven to work when sites are compromised by automatic tools that attempt to change/delete all they can. In each case that I’ve experienced the damage has typically been limited to content in that user’s home directory. This would not be good mitigation against something which attempted privilege escalation once on the box, went after the httpd itself, etc.

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Blanding’s Turtle Rescue

While out riding at Stony Creek today, just before finishing up a segment of single track, I came around a corner and almost hit a turtle. It was walking along the middle of some grooved, dry, sunny sandy single track, and liable to get run over. When I passed it quickly pulled its head and legs in, so after quickly stopping I was able to easily moved it off the trail, but not before taking this picture of it. On my next pass through the turtle was nowhere to be seen, so hopefully it has made its way back to a more suitable piece of land.

It turns out that this is a Blanding’s Turtle, a Michigan Protected Species. According to MSU it is categorized as S3, or “rare or uncommon in state (on the order of 21 to 100 occurrences)”.

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Large Bottle of ProLink

I really like ProGold’s ProLink chain lube, and I’ve been using it for a couple years. Since my smaller 4oz bottles were running out I picked up a large 16oz one and refilled the others. With the large 16oz bottle costing around $19 on Amazon I was able to refill the smaller bottles for half the price of buying new ones. This worked out pretty well, and pouring from the soda bottle-sized neck into the small squeeze bottle necks was easier than planned.

The only odd / amusing thing is that the 16oz bottle comes with a spray head. As I normally lubricate my chain one drop at a time (one drop per roller) I can’t ever see the need for dumping that much chain lube on anything in one go. Maybe if I was using it to lube industrial chains… Maybe…

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Arataki Manuka Honey

Some friends of mine (Erik and Kristi) recently took a trip to New Zealand, and they brought back some of this Arataki Manuka Honey. I’m really enjoying this stuff, as it’s a nicely thick, creamy honey with a very strong flower-y taste. It goes very well on medium-toasted English muffins.

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