March 09, 2010 at 05:36 PM | categories: Me, Programming | View Comments

During the last week, I finally did something I've been meaning to do for the last while, and bought myself a VPS as up until now, I've been on shared hosting. On the advice of compwhizii, I went with Linode. While there was nothing wrong with my previous web host, Web Hosting Buzz, they were a full $5 a month dearer for their entry level VPS packages, and unlike Linode, did not give you a choice of a UK data centre. My site, and most of it's visitors are in Europe, so that was quite helpful.

So, after purchasing the VPS, I set it up with the basics: DNS, Apache, MySQL, PHP (my blog runs on Wordpress which uses PHP, which is why it got in ahead of Python). Very simple, just use the package manager and Control Panel to set it up. There was a slight mishap where my DNS changes were propagated before I fixed them, leaving my blog not set up yet. But that was soon resolved.

After about a day, I noticed Apache was getting random segfaults serving static pages. Rather than spending ages to debug the problem, I decided to try out nginx, which I had heard good things about. It was quite simple to set up, with Linode providing a guide with most of the steps. All well and good. Until, about two days later, nginx started reporting a 502 bad gateway error. A problem with a new web server? Nope. The fault lies with php-cgi, and it was compwhizii's blog to the rescue again. His post about using nginx provided a link to this page explaining how to solve it. The short version? Set the  PHP_FCGI_MAX_REQUESTS environment variable, so the php-cgi process gets restarted every so often.

The VPS is, unsurprisingly much better than the shared hosting. SSH is much better for administration than the old Control Panels. The first project I'm doing to really make use of that, is something I have planned using Django. More on that later, if it comes to anything.

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Building a PC

January 12, 2010 at 07:19 PM | categories: Me, PCs | View Comments

A while back I decided to build a PC from parts for the first time. Why didn't I ever do so before? (a) Lack of money, and (b) Worry I'd screw something up. Of course, what kind of computer nerd would I be if I never built my own?

So first things first, the specs (some components old, the rest ordered from

  • MSI G41M-F Motherboard
  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 (2.5Ghz)
  • Geforce 210 (512mb)
  • 2GB RAM
  • 630W PSU
  • 500GB HDD
  • Nox Saphira Case
  • DVD±RW drive

Nothing astounding there. A decidedly below-par graphics card for a new system, but considering it was my first buld, I didn't want to spend loads in case I screwed up. Plenty of room for expansion later however.

The first part of the build went easy enough. A minor beginners mistake when I didn't check which way I was putting the heatsink beforehand, so I had to unwrap more of the CPU fan cable than otherwise needed (which meant I later had to cable tie it to another cable to keep it away from the fan blades).

The system was assembled and wired up, hassle-free. Turning it on first time yielded spinning fans, spinning hard drive, running graphics card, no CD drive and no display. After a minor panic attack, it turned out I'd forgotten to plug in the extra 12V power cable for the motherboard. That solved, the system booted up fine.

System setup was the next step. The first OS to go on was Windows Server 2008 R2. Why Windows Server? Because I'm a cheapskate, and could get it for free from Microsoft Dreamspark. That started installation. Everything looked fine, but it froze at expanding Windows files. A quick install of Fedora 10 proved the system was capable of running an OS, and even Windows XP ran fine. Then it dawned on me. I burned a new disc, and Server 2008 R2 installed fine.

A little tinkering was needed to get a decent desktop experience from the Server OS. This is actually so common, there are websites for converting Server 2008 to a Vista-esque PC and the same for Server 2008 R2 to 7.

The system runs fine, and can handle all my games without any difficulty, except Fallout 3. I don't know what's causing the Fallout 3 problem, but it freezes randomly within the first 5 minutes. A quick google reveals some people have the same problem with Windows 7, so it may just be an incompatibility, so I'll have to hang on and wait for another patch.

in total (remember, some parts are from old systems), this build cost me just under €350. could i have gotten a comparable system for €350? checking on dell, the same money would buy me a pentium dual core e5300 and integrated graphics, so probably not.

Footnote: I've written this post while trying out Windows Live Writer. It seems cool. My one problem is it doesn't quite render my theme right in the edit section, but apart from that it is fine. Anyone know of any Linux programs with similar features?

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And so it begins...

March 16, 2009 at 08:22 PM | categories: Me | View Comments

So yet again, I am starting a blog. I've tried general blogs before and never stuck at them, but since I've done a few smaller blogs, internal to forums and stuff, and managed to stick with them, I think the time is ripe to have another go. I'm not limiting myself on topics which I'll post on, but they'll probably all end up being on the same topics.

So I suppose I should start with a bit about my interests.

  • Gaming. I play a wide variety of games, nowadays mostly on PC, but I still have a good few 360 games. My current favorites are Team Fortress 2 and Runescape. Team Fortress 2 is a really polished and humourous game and with the recent updates, has gotten even better. My favorite addition? The sandwich. Om nom nom. Nom nom nom. It wins the award for most epic video game sound effect ever. As for Runescape, well, you either love it or hate it.
  • Programming. I am a hobbyist programmer. I've done a lot in PHP, Javascript, C# and Java. My favorite language to program in definitly has to be Javascript, especially when paired with jQuery.
  • Reading. Sci-fi mainly. My current favorite book is either Time's Eye by Arthur C. Clarke, or The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

So that's about it for now. Enjoy the blog, anyone who decides to read it. The title is Macha Mackha, after the username I wanted, Macha (based on the cat in .hack//sign) and the username I took (Machka)1 because Macha was taken. I'm not usually a fan of anime, but I really liked .hack//sign.

  1. At the time this post was written, this blog was hosted on

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