Bugginess lately? Should be better now.

You may have noticed that the Freethoughtblogs site has been obnoxiously flaky lately. Our brilliant part-time tech person, Alex, seems to have figure out the problem: our recent comments add-on was scanning all the comments from all our posts, which means it was working way too hard for too little effect. I had to look; Pharyngula alone has over 10,000 posts and almost a million comments, and the stupid little add-on was trawling through all of that every time it rebuilt that one menu.

It’s been fixed now. You can continue to stuff the network with comments; the software is going to ignore the ancient comments on ancient posts.

The software business sure is persnickety.


  1. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I kept getting cloud error messages, only for FTB. The software tweak appears to be working. Back to snappy reloads.

  2. says

    The people who code add-ons seldom have experience with large systems scaleability, and don’t think about what operations will be performed frequently, and why. It’s disappointing when you consider that nowadays we run our systems on hardware that is tens of thousands of times more powerful than the stuff that old systems administrators like myself used to support 50+ users all doing real work on. It’s because the software development model du jour is “throw iron at it” which means nobody learns how to code for small iron anymore.

    It’s nice, I suppose, for us old programmer farts: we can write fast code and they can’t. Back in ’09 when the security market was imploding I started hunting around for a Plan B and realized that I could probably specialize in writing device firmware for USB devices. If you read the ‘coder’ websites there’s a lot of “OMG this thing only has 256k of memoryyy!? How amd I gonna fit Ruby on Bloat and Struts and LibreCloacaMaxima in there!?!” I was thinking “whoah, that’s roomy!” So I stopped sighing “kids these days” and felt better; I have employment as long as I want it.

  3. unperson says

    @Marcus Ranum: But for those of us who do do security, the problem is that with CPUs and memory being so cheap, a lot of places don’t bother with a proper embedded system designs any more and just slap outdated versions of Linux on their gizmos. Then they can reduce the problem of writing an embedded system to one of writing a Linux device driver and some user-space control module. Of course, outdated Linux systems usually have known exploits at the time that the gizmos are released, never get any patches or support, and the developers frequently add in their own back-doors for good measure.

    I suppose that’s better than slapping Windows XP Embedded into everything, but still.

  4. cnocspeireag says

    Please don’t change your host. I’ve followed Hemant Mehta’s Friendly Atheist blog for years and it’s suddenly become aimed at the tabloid low-double-figure IQ market after a change. You get a handful of words per page surrounded by loads of crap. I’ve asked if it’s possible to change the format and have not received a reply so far. I’ll try to remove my support in the next few days unless I receive a reply: I’ll not hold my breath. I don’t suppose Hemant will care.

  5. whheydt says

    Old programmer wisdom…
    The computer is man’s stupidest domesticated animal. It does *exactly* what you tell it to…and *only* what you tell it to.

    There is a technique for starting out beginning programming students. Instructor walks in wearing a 3-piece suit. Then he challenges the class to tell him how to take off the vest. He follows their instructions, exactly as stated. It usually gets the point across…

  6. Scott Simmons says

    In fairness, Marcus, you can do some really neat stuff with LibreCloacaMaxima.

    (“Ruby on Bloat”. Snicker.)

  7. se habla espol says

    I miss The Friendly Atheist and Dispatches from the Culture Wars since Patheos got so greedy, some months ago.

    If I leave my ad-blockers on, any Patheos blog loads and then replaces the loaded page with a complaint that the page wouldn’t load.

    If I turn the ad-blockers off, Patheos loads up my 4GiB PC with about 6 GiB of crap, causing my PC to go into serious thrashing, and using 100% of my processors. This makes any Patheos blog unusable.

  8. tomh says

    @ #8
    I wonder why that is. I read Patheos, those two blogs in particular, with Adblock Plus on Chrome and have no problem at all. No ads and no complaints.

    The problem I have on Freethought blogs is that I can’t make the email subscription work no matter what I do. It used to work but hasn’t for some time. Maybe this new tweaking will help.

  9. Sunday Afternoon says

    @WMDKitty (#10):

    No, you’re not the only one.

    @Scott Simmons (#7):

    (“Ruby on Bloat”. Snicker.): Agreed!

    General comment – are you sure the speed problem has been fixed? A blog takes ~30 seconds to fully load the top level page on my phone connected over good wifi. (Example pages: https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/, http://freethoughtblogs.com/stderr/) It looks like the wordpress content is there early on, but something is slowing down the completion of the load.

  10. raven says

    If I leave my ad-blockers on, any Patheos blog loads and then replaces the loaded page with a complaint that the page wouldn’t load.

    I have Chrome with Adblock for Patheos. It’s working OK.
    Without Adblock, Patheos is buggy, the bugs change often, and the site is hard to read or unreadable.
    I wouldn’t use Adblock for their sake, except then, I couldn’t read it at all.

  11. Ichthyic says

    alternative to AdBlock Plus, for those that either can’t use, or don’t want to use, AdBlock (AdBlock started selling commercial exceptions to their filters, btw).



    been using it for almost a year now with no issues.

  12. robro says

    Thanks tech person, Alex. I had noticed how slow FTB had gotten. Wasn’t sure if it was my browser, my computer, my Wi-Fi, my ISP…or just the gremlins of the Internet. Much better now.

  13. dontlikeusernames says

    @13: Don’t use that, use “uBlock Origin” instead. It sees much more active development (judging by commit logs) and is by the original author of “uBlock”.

  14. blf says

    Test — I have a suspicion there’s now a different problem with the “recent comments” sidebar (at least here at poopyhead’s, no idea about the rest of the FtB site)): I appear to not be seeing recent-ish comments show up that sidebar, even after refreshing; that is, there is, maybe, it seems, a surprisingly-long delay (perhaps on the order of tens of minutes) before the sidebar updates? Maybe, this is a test…

  15. blf says

    me@16, No, that hypothesis is not it. Something odd is happening, however; e.g., the following comment is simply not showing up in the sidebar on either this or its own thread, https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2017/08/04/discuss-political-madness-all-the-time-3/comment-page-3/#comment-1091785

    Whilst the above comment(@16) is about 50 minutes later than that linked comment, the sidebar currently spans around eleven hours (this would seem to be poopyhead’s quiet time?). Hence, both comments should appear. In both threads (after refreshing). But only @16 above is showing up, not the 50mins earlier linked-to one (in both threads, after refreshing).

    Oh well… shrugs

  16. Ichthyic says

    @13: Don’t use that, use “uBlock Origin” instead. It sees much more active development (judging by commit logs) and is by the original author of “uBlock”.

    thanks. you’re absolutely right. uBlock Origin is actually what I have been using.

    got the link wrong.

  17. says

    Now if you can just do something about that stupid pop-in ad that shifts the entire content of the page to the right and sometimes text right off the page.

    FIXED AD BANNERS! None of the dynamic crapola that NEVER formats right.

  18. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    There is still a bug in the system. The Moments of Political Madness thread has been active all day, but hasn’t shown up in the recent posts sidebar.

  19. consciousness razor says

    Well, that thread was started on August 4th…. The fix was apparently to stop checking threads (as opposed to comments) that are older than X number of days, presumably on the assumption that recent comments would come from recent threads. That might be typical activity on many blogs, but MPM is one which is both very active and long-term.

    Just updating the MPM thread within the required timeframe would be a silly way to get around the problem in this particular case, if not “solve” it. But generally, we already have a list of the 10 most recent threads (“posts”), and “most recent comments” is intended to give different information which isn’t limited to things like that.

    Perhaps if the zillions of old/dead threads are closed to commenting, then the trawler gadget could be instructed to ignore all of them. Or closing would essentially remove it from a list of the items that need to be searched, because that list is too big.

  20. blf says

    The NEW bug summarised by Nerd@21 does indeed seem to be as c.r.@22 speculated: Besides poopyhead’s Political Madness All the Time thread (current iteration started in early-August), the same problem is also happening to Caine‘s (Affinity) Never Ending Thread (current iteration started in early-June). Both threads are long-lived, so any assumption they aren’t actively being commented-on is false.

    That assumption is also false, but to a less dramatic degree, for other threads. Some commentators, myself included, go back to “older” threads to add comments updating the situation — these updating comments (presumably) will also not show up in the Recent Comments sidebar (I use eejit quotes because, currently, the title of that sidebar is blatantly false (albeit presumably unintentionally)).