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Archive for August, 2008

Behold, my next picture!

I just started on this last night. There were several contenders for which picture from my recent vacation would make it to be my next piece. After my last piece that I haven’t finished, I decided against doing anything watery, thought there were some contenders. What was left in therunning was this, another misty view, the cliffs of Nahal Gush Halav and a nice shot on the circular summit path on Mt Meron.

This one in the end took the majority vote of my family art advisors. So far I have stsrted with a lurid lemon yellow underpainting.

In case you don’t know, the Hulah Valley is a valley in the far north of Israel (how far north can you go in a small country?) between the highlands of the Galilee to the west and the Golan plateau to the east. It has nothing to do with Hawaian dancers or strangely named children in New Zealand

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As the title says I am back from vacation (that’s why I haven’t posted for a week). We were up north and stayed in Rosh Pina in a great zimmer (that’s a holiday apartment in English) called “Ruach Beharim” which I heartily recommend. If you look at the pictures you can kind of see what we saw and did while we were away.

I tried to make some more headway with the latest picture this evening but it doresn’t seem to be going anywhere. To recap, the picture is of a quiet pool with some reeds around and floating on it. I can’t seem to get the water to look watery. Maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe I should give it a break and do something else. It’s very frustrating, all the more so because I have the feeling that it isn’t progressing because I’m out of practice and I just don’t have time to study, practise or experiment. Although some of my recent work would definitely say otherwise I get this feeling that I’m going downhill because I don’t have enough time to dedicate to painting. Very frustrating.

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Yes, this is it! the new site went live this evening although you may still be seeing the old one until the Domain Name Servers around the Internet get updated with the new location.

Sorry for another computer-technical post, but after spending a lot of energy on a couple of problems I had setting up the new site, it would definitely be a shame not to share them. These tips are very specific to Lunarpages and the second one is even more specific to my site, but just in case you run into this as otherwise you could spend hours and not even get to the bottom of it.

My first problem was in setting up my database server. Turns out that the excellent myLittleAdmin interface that Lunarpages provide to manage your MS SQL Server 2005 database is not accessed through the Plesk control panel but via a separate URL. However (and this is the important bit) you still need to create your first database through the Plesk interface and add your users at the SQL server level in order to be able login to the admin interface. This is kind of logical when you think about it because this is what you do in fact when you set up users on your database with Management Studio. First you add them to the server and then select them and add them to the database.

The second problem was a more difficult one. I have an AJAX page method call on my homepage that makes an asynchronous call to the RSS of this blog as soon as the HTML comes up but while the page is loading. This is to prevent the page taking time to load just because of delay retrieving the RSS while rendering the page server-side.

Anyway this wasn’t working. I started looking into it and found that the page method was returning the full HTML of the page instead of the string of HTML rendering of the RSS. It was as if the callback was ignoring the method call and just re-calling the page. After a while I got the idea of checking with Fiddler (an incredibly useful tool when debugging AJAX code) what the difference was between the requests that the AJAX code was sending in my test site and that which it was sending on the production server.

It turned out that what was happening was this. I was viewing the site through the site preview URL that Lunarpages had given me because I didn’t want to switch the DNS until I was certain the site was up and running. What the site preview was doing was sending a 301 redirection for every request I sent with a modified URL. AJAX Callbacks like regular ASP.Net postbacks are sent as HTTP Posts. When the browser receives the 301 back, it resends but this time as an HTTP Get and without any of the posted fields and therefore the callback isn’t made. Instead the server renders the page again and sends it back to client. Below is the HTTP conversation that was going on (with a few bit blanked out for privacy/security):

POST /Default.aspx/GetRSS HTTP/1.1
Accept: */*
Accept-Language: en-us,he;q=0.5
Referer: http://xxxxxx.lunarmania.com/$sitepreview/rafistern.com/
Content-Type: application/json; charset=utf-8
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; InfoPath.1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.30; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.648; .NET CLR 3.5.21022; WWTClient2; MS-RTC LM 8)
Host: xxxxxx.lunarmania.com
Content-Length: 0
Proxy-Connection: Keep-Alive
Pragma: no-cache
Cookie: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

----------------------------------

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Via: 1.1 Address Is Hidden
Connection: Keep-Alive
Proxy-Connection: Keep-Alive
Content-Length: 21
Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2008 09:34:50 GMT
Location: /$sitepreview/rafistern.com/Default.aspx/GetRSS
Content-Type: text/html
Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0301

Moved Permanently

----------------------------------

GET /$sitepreview/rafistern.com/Default.aspx/GetRSS HTTP/1.1
Accept: */*
Accept-Language: en-us,he;q=0.5
Referer: http://xxxxxx.lunarmania.com/$sitepreview/rafistern.com/
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; InfoPath.1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.30; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.648; .NET CLR 3.5.21022; WWTClient2; MS-RTC LM 8)
Host: xxxxxx.lunarmania.com
Proxy-Connection: Keep-Alive
Pragma: no-cache
Cookie: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

----------------------------------

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Via: 1.1 Address Is Hidden
Connection: Keep-Alive
Proxy-Connection: Keep-Alive
Content-Length: 14435
Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2008 09:34:51 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
X-Powered-By: PleskWin
X-AspNet-Version: 2.0.50727
Set-Cookie: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx; expires=Tue, 04-Aug-2009 09:34:51 GMT; path=/
Set-Cookie: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx; expires=Tue, 04-Aug-2009 07:00:00 GMT; path=/
Cache-Control: no-cache
Set-cookie: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx; path=/

<html>xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx</html>

After I worked that one out, I decided to go live and that decision proved to be right as the site is now live and working just great.

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I am in the middle of changing my website (not my blog – at least not for now) host at the moment.

Up till now my site http://www.rafistern.com has been hosted with GoDaddy.com.  My hosting agreement with them is about to run out and I have been sufficiently annoyed by them over the last two years that I have decided to invest valuable painting time in transfering my site to a new hoster – LunarPages.

So what’s wrong with GoDaddy? Apart from having a really silly name (the kind you’re embarrassed by when you have to explain to a computer-outsider where your site is hosted), I have over the last while got a bit frustrated with the features and service that they provide.

First off, their admin interface is bloated and sooooooo slow. Secondly the option that they offer to configure are rather basic. Now that I am setting up my site on LunarPages I realize just how basic they are – one database login with full admin privileges only, that I couldn’t do a database backup at all, the ability to run the site in medium trust only (see here for the grief that caused me).

Anyway, I am currently in the process of moving to LunarPages. I have only been dealing with them for a few days but the difference is so big that I felt I had to write about it. First off, they give lots of features for a good price. I am paying $9.95pm for ASP.Net hosting with a virtually unlimited MS SQL database. That is all I really need. Add to that unlimited email addresses, a mailing list and a whole load of junk I don’t need, that’s pretty good. Next – and this is why I chose them – they have an excellent reputation for uptime and customer service. So far I can vouch for the service. I got a reply to a pre-sales question in record time and they are currently helping me set up my database (admittedly with some problems) and I am getting prompt and comprehensive answers from tech support even at the weekend. Their control panel is fast even from Israel and is really fully-featured as if I was sitting on the server itself. They use Plesk for their IIS and file management and myLittleAdmin for SQL which blew me away after using the interface that Godaddy were giving me.

My timetable is that I need to get everything set up by the end of the week and then I point the domain (still registered via GoDaddy) to the Lunarpages DNS server and open a new chapter.

In the new site there will be a couple of enhancements, including PayPal shopping cart integration which is a pretty major feature, and some usability features and cosmetics. I am also including a new policy section including shipping, privacy and copyright policies. Maybe I will devote blog entries to explain those over next weeks.

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