StructureCMS

July 17, 2012

Fuzzy result matching in Google – it sucks and there’s no way to stop it.

Filed under: Musings, Technology — joel.cass @ 9:41 am

Lately I’ve been having a lot of trouble finding the correct results on google. For example, a few weeks ago I wanted to know what is the quietest carriage (e.g. the carriage with the least number of people) on a peak hour cityrail train. So I search “what is the quietest carriage cityrail train” what are my results? Well, they completely ignored my request and figured I was looking for quiet carriages, not “quietest” carriages. So I get spammed with propaganda about quiet carriages.

Stupid google search results

Next, I tried searching “what is the +++++”quietest” carriage cityrail train” – no effect, same results..

Google shitty search results

So today after during my morning ride I noticed a light squeaking noise from the bottom bracket, so I searched for “squeaky bottom bracket”.. It decided to show results for “creaky bottom bracket”. I then try “+”squeaky” bottom bracket”. Same thing.

Google is not matching my keywords

The fix? Searching for “+”squeaky” bottom bracket -creaky” removed the offending results. But this is just plain stupid, this means that my results may not include pages that contain squeaky and creaky – what if the page I want contains both keywords?

Google tries in vain to render my search query

This reminds me of the days of the “excite” search engine – which was actually pretty good, until they started making the results fuzzy by just showing anything that matched any of your keywords. Then it just turned to shit. And where are they now? Gone.

Google, I hope you get your act together. I love it is free to search the web and lets face it, up to a few months ago the results were pretty good but it’s turning to rubbish. Even just having an option to disabled fuzzy searching would do for most of us!

August 17, 2011

ColdFusion on Linux – Make sure your hostname is correct!

Filed under: ColdFusion, Technology — joel.cass @ 10:52 am

Recently I have been given the task to install ColdFusion on CentOS. Everything went well, Apache installed fine, related dependencies installed fine, even ColdFusion installed fine. Until I tried accessing the site, upon which I was presented with this error:

java.lang.NullPointerException
	at java.lang.String.indexOf(String.java:1733)
	at java.lang.String.indexOf(String.java:1715)
	at jrun.servlet.session.SessionService.getUrlSessionID(SessionService.java:1097)
	at jrun.servlet.ForwardRequest.getRequestedSessionId(ForwardRequest.java:426)
	at jrun.servlet.ForwardRequest.isRequestedSessionIdValid(ForwardRequest.java:467)
	at jrun.servlet.ForwardRequest.getSession(ForwardRequest.java:344)
	at jrun.servlet.ForwardRequest.create(ForwardRequest.java:135)
	at jrun.servlet.JRunRequestDispatcher.invoke(JRunRequestDispatcher.java:253)
	at jrun.servlet.ServletEngineService.dispatch(ServletEngineService.java:543)
	at jrun.servlet.http.WebService.invokeRunnable(WebService.java:172)
	at jrunx.scheduler.ThreadPool$ThreadThrottle.invokeRunnable(ThreadPool.java:428)
	at jrunx.scheduler.WorkerThread.run(WorkerThread.java:66)

I had installed ColdFusion 9, in a similar method to that described here. So, I tried installing ColdFusion 8 following the same method. Still got the error. I then tried installing ColdFusion 9 to use the root user (not recommended). Still got the error.

So I pulled my hair out for a bit, and then started scanning logs, upon which I came across this line:

08/16 23:23:54 error centostemplate.xxxx.xxx.au: centostemplate.xxxx.xxx.au
java.net.UnknownHostException: centostemplate.xxxx.xxx.au: centostemplate.xxxx.xxx.au

…and then it all fell together! The instance I had been given was created off a template, in which the host name was set in /etc/sysconfig/network to ‘centostemplate.xxxx.xxx.au’ – which did not resolve via DNS! So, the easy fix was to map this over in /etc/hosts to localhost, i.e.

127.0.0.1    centostemplate.xxxx.xxx.au

Restart the services, fixed! This is CentOS in my case, but I think if you ever run into this problem on a *nix platform, check your network config and ensure that your configured hostname resolves to an IP address.

June 30, 2011

Telstra wireless broadband – lessons learned

Filed under: Technology — joel.cass @ 8:16 am

Telstra sucks. It’s a well-known fact and while I’ve avoided being a customer of theirs for the last 10 years or so, I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting coverage from my Vodafone wireless broadband service. So, I walked into a Telstra store, purchased a prepaid Internet router (Telstra Elite) from the reluctant staff member who then proceeded to take copies of my driver’s licence (don’t know why since I had to fill in all the details all over again), opened the package, read the instructions, it all seemed so ’simple’.

Yet, when I actually try using the thing it doesn’t work. First things first, the card provided with the modem says you can be connected in *just* 3 simple steps! Wrong! The manual actually mentions (on an left-sided page with no headings) that you have to actually activate the modem by calling a number. Simple.

I call the number. Automated message tells me I should go online, after all, it’s “quick and easy”(!). I hate automated phone services, so I decided to go online. Fill out all my details and then, theoretically, my modem should be activated in the next two hours. The next morning I try to connect (about 12 hours later). I still can’t connect.

I check the modem settings. Fine, no problem there. The connection between my laptop and the modem is very fast. I click on the ‘check your account’ link. It loads! Oh, I have zero credit. But what about the 5GB included with the modem? It looks like I’ll need to buy credit before I can use my ‘bonus’ credit. Fucking Telstra!!!

So I give the call centre a call. Following the prompts, got there eventually. I was served by someone named ‘Joy’ – oh the irony. After resetting my modem, and resetting the computer (she asked me if it was ‘XP or Vista’ – ha it’s a Mac!), everything just magically worked.

I refreshed the ‘My Account’ page – miraculously a dollar was added to my credit! And everything just seemed to work!

Two hours later I check to see if it’s still working. Nope. Broken again. I refresh the ‘My Account’ screen. Zero credit again!

I call up again, this time I am greeted by Mark. He starts rolling out the normal questions, asking me to reboot my computer etc etc. Check the SIM card, fine, fine, fine… Then he realises my account was set up as a mobile phone account!

The whole problem was that I used the Internet to enable my prepaid broadband service – it can only be enabled over the phone. Hence, they don’t mention the Internet in the manual – however, the greeting when calling to activate the account starts off by recommending that you go online to enable your account, after all, it’s “quick and easy”! It was neither quick, nor easy, in fact, it was painful!

What I can’t stand about Telstra’s approach is how many times the words ’simply’, ‘easily’, and ‘just’ were mentioned in their documentation and on the prerecorded phone messages – not only is it patronising but it’s an outright lie! The documentation should read as follows:

You can set up your modem in 7 easy steps!

  1. Simply crack your nails trying to open the back shell of the modem. Easily realise that isn’t working, and then just use the corner of a credit card to crack the shell open.
  2. Simply insert the battery into the back of the modem so that the contacts meet the pins (which aren’t gold by the way).
  3. Put the blue card that came with your modem in front of you. Turn on your computer, and set up a new wireless network. Select the network name entered on the card and enter your WPA password.
  4. 4. Simply open up a web browser and realise nothing is working. Open a new window and enter ‘http://192.168.0.1′ into the address bar – a page should load up immediately. This confirms that you have your network set up correctly.
  5. Call 125 8887 and follow the prompts to activate your card. DO NOT go on the Internet to activate the card.
  6. Simply Wait 2 hours
  7. Check to see if your account works. If not, call 125 8887 and simply follow the prompts (4, 2, 1). Consult your friend at the other end of the line.
  8. Repeat step 7 as many times as necessary. Step 6 may be necessary as well.

But this will never be a reality. Telstra seem to assume that their customers cannot count past 3 and also, the process is not ’simple’ nor is it ‘quick’ and ‘easy’.

Great network, poor systems, and a workforce that knows nothing about the customer. Enter Telstra. And people wonder why their shares don’t get good returns.

October 1, 2010

Seagate “Expansion” Drive powering itself off?

Filed under: Technology — joel.cass @ 4:13 pm

I don’t know what genius wrote the power management “feature” of Seagate’s new range of low-price external drives. I recently purchased a 2GB Seagate “Expansion” powered external drive, and continually while I was trying to make all-important backups of my data, the drive would power itself down and I’d continually get these “delayed write failed” messages, which indicate potentially lost data.

One would expect that such a dodgy feature would be turned off by default. But no, the drive is configured to power itself down every 15 minutes, no matter what you might be doing with it. It’s a bloody stupid feature and whoever designed it needs to read a book on logical decisions.. Or learn to read.. or whatever

Anyway I digress, to fix the problem you will need to download the FreeAgent software from Seagate’s website, install it, run it, select your drive, click on “Adjust power setting” and set it to “Never”. More details can be found in the FreeAgent User guide, page 9.

You will never need to use this feature, the drive will power down when your computer is turned off or in standby. It will not turn on by itself whilst disconnected, at least not in my experience.

Furthermore it’s frustrating that I had to figure this out on my own. Endless perusal of FAQ’s, forums on the Seagate site, came to no avail. These guys clearly do not care about their product or the opinions of the customer. Well, here they are: I bought once, will never buy again.

December 4, 2009

Windows XP stalls on “Applying computer settings”

Filed under: Technology — joel.cass @ 9:32 am

It seems that since about 6 months ago, there has been this annoying bug in windows XP that causes it to stall on “Applying computer settings” every 2nd time my machine is booted. Strangely enough, this has happened to me in two completely different environmments at two different workplaces.

Searching google didn’t come up with much, except this one thread: http://www.geekstogo.com/forum/Laptop-hangs-applying-computer-settings-t110037.html

I thought I would describe how to change these settings:

  1. Open the control panel, open networking
    Control Panel

    Control Panel

  2. Open the network adapter that you use to connect (double-click the icon or click on link highlighted below)
    Control Panel, Networking

    Control Panel, Networking

  3. Scroll down to Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), click it, then click the “Properties” button.
    Networking Properties

    Networking Properties

  4. In the TCP/IP Properties dialog, click “Advanced” button
    TCP/IP Properties

    TCP/IP Properties

  5. In the Advanced TCP/IP Settings dialog, click the WINS tab
    Advanced TCP Settings

    Advanced TCP Settings

  6. Under the “NetBIOS setting” area, change to “Enable NetBIOS over TCP/IP”
    Selecting NetBIOS over TCP/IP = Enabled

    Selecting NetBIOS over TCP/IP = Enabled

  7. Click OK/Close to all dialogs
  8. Reboot your computer to test – yay! fast logon!

Why this happens, I am not so sure. All I could suggest is that if NetBIOS is disabled on the Active directory server (most likely for security reasons) it will also be disabled on your computer.

The delay in logon probably occurs because a service is attempting to collect information using NetBIOS when it is not available. Making NetBIOS available effectively fixes the problem.

September 26, 2008

Extending iPhone battery life

Filed under: Technology — joel.cass @ 8:35 am

I must admit that I was pretty disappointed with the battery life on the iPhone (3g). I was struggling to get more than 2 days out of it. Furthermore, it would always go flat at the worst time – when you are actually using it.

It reminds me of my first (and only) iPod, which frequently and unpredictably went flat without warning and still wouldn’t hold a charge after being on the charger overnight.

Thankfully, apple has seemed to get past the battery issues – the iPhone battery takes around 1-2 hours to charge and seems a little more consistent in usage time. So the real problem is the phone and how it uses the battery.

From the word go it has the following features enabled:
- gps
- bluetooth
- 3g
- wifi

All of these features chew up the battery something chronic. If you don’t use them, turn them off.

Furthermore, if you have outlook accounts set up, your iPhone will continually receive updates every time anything changes (which for most people is rather often) – this also chews up the battery. To disable this, go to settings, check new data = off.

With 3g, gps, bluetooth, wifi and checking of new data turned off, I now get about 5-6 days of standby time. And of course you can turn all that stuff back on when you need it.

August 26, 2008

Unwired

Filed under: Technology — Tags: — joel.cass @ 7:09 am

It was six months ago that I got fed up with the lousy unwired coverage I had on my area and settled for an ADSL connection.

When I rang to cancel my account I was informed that the $30 or so owing to me could not be refunded. This was ok so I cancelled. A few days later I got a call from some guy at unwired saying that they did not want me to go so they offered me six months of free email.

THIS IS A SCAM. IF YOUR ISP OFFERS THIS TO YOU DONT TAKE IT.

Why? Well, 6 months later MY ORIGINAL PLAN THAT I NO LONGER USE was reinstated and my bank account was charged. I rang to attest this, and was informed that my money would not be refunded as I should have been aware that this would happen.

To me, this is a scam and is not ethical nor good customer service.