spider blog



SPIDER's blog

Since Monday 03 October 2005 04:30 pm

Public blogs:

this week's tweaks

Friday 27 November 2009 04:18 pm

various changes to the 'scenario' Rx type to deal with matching the boolean logic to determine correct/ wrong answers.

mirror server
repaired mysql database after unscheduled power-outage corrupted the mirror server. Ended up resetting relay logs and using LOAD table table_name FROM MASTER to fix the corruption. Most of the 2003-04 log tables were hosed, so took over 5 hours to complete fixes.

make live button bugged. Fixed.

SIPBS U: drive
the power down on Fri 20th corrupted the virtual disk on the powervault disk array which handles the main "U: share" used for all of SIPBS business data. Chased up Dell guy assigned via support to fix this. Many emails to "Antonio" followed by serveral phone calls + remote webex session, eventually passed up to "Sean" who CLI'd his way to fixing it with no data loss. Shame this was Wed and we'd already recovered the U from the backups, effectively causing a mismatch between the Fri live data and current. Still, can recover any "friday work" from the recovered virtual drive if needed.

bug fixes to quiz tool preventing submission of quizzes in "formal mode"

booking tool
testing with psychology students of changes to allow booking of 'experiments'

now accessible in free web-space using the settings/ open to web option. Working on making the url a bit more friendly (currently spider.science.strath.ac.uk/blog/?blog=36)




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more power to you...

Thursday 26 November 2009 03:31 pm

someone turned the power off to the SIPBS building today at around 1.30pm for around 15minutes without telling anyone in the building it was going to happen. SPIDER was ok as the 'red sockets' remained powered on. However, the 'live' SPIDER backup server (aka BRUCe) fell over, with the added bonus of its MySQL database being corrupted. Joy.  I've now got the task of fixing this mess. So much for an afernoon of coding....

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power saga

Monday 23 November 2009 11:42 am

it seems that the supposed 30min of power outage on Saturday was a severe underestimate - although SPIDER kept running all day, the rest of the network was down, and based on folk logging back in, it looks like power was off from 14:55 until around 22:26. Whatver they were doing was not completed, and they are needing to power off again tonight for about 4 hours... I only found this out after I had swapped SPIDER back to the main supply (as the 'red socket' supply was due to be turned off today at 09:00 until 11:00). I'll have to shutdown/ reboot SPIDER again later today to swap it back over to the red socket supply for when they shut off the regular supply this evening.

To add to the chaos, the SIPBS file server's disk storage array was corrupted when we rebooted it this morning. We've tried everything we can think of, but have had to call up Dell support to see if they can help us else we've lost the entire U drive (we'll have to restore it from Thursday evening's backup). 


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this week's tweaks

Friday 20 November 2009 04:48 pm

minor tweaks to fix PDP tool so that staff viewing PDP as students see an empty PDP rather than nothing.

minor change to add id to textarea function to allow it to work with tinymce editor

updated stats to display stats for newer browsers (chrome, new webkit) and identify phone browsers more accurately

updated showTest to handle scenario logic (took hours...!). Display fix to options to show lower case in drop downs.

questionnaires as quiz
marking page was ignoring questionnaire questions which were missing a 'type' - fixed questions in db but need to track down where in the question creation/edit process they lose their type.

updated index page to point to new quiz viewer for radiation quiz

bug fix as recipient email in footer was being wiped

showNews minor updates to how news is displayed

added physics admin level users

fixed bug in revision vs class status (wasnt being passed between submits, so all results stored as revision in error)



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power update

Friday 20 November 2009 11:20 am

It seems the contrators have done a bit of extra work today which, depending who you listen to, will mean the mains power is only going to be off for around 30mins on Saturday between 14:00 and 18:00. The 'red socket' supply up should be up and running. This gives us 2 options - I can leave SPIDER on the regular mains supply and hope that 30mins is accurate, in which case the batteries in the UPS will keep it up and running (if its more than 30minutes, the batteries will run out...); or I can shutdown for 10minutes this evening to swap it to the red socket supply, which has a bigger UPS battery on it. I'd then have to come in early on Monday to swap it back to the regular mains, as the red sockets are getting shut off on Monday between 09:00 and 11:00.  So the plan is:

Friday at 5pm - shutdown SPIDER, swap it to red socket UPS, reboot (5-10minutes offline)
Saturday between 2 and 6 - power goes off, SPIDER runs from batteries on the UPS for an hour or so (rest of network will be down, so no access for this time)
Monday at ~08:30 - shutdown SPIDER, swap it back to regular mains UPS, reboot (5-10 minutes offline)

As the red sockets are 'better' and the newer UPS on this line is superior, will need to swap back to them on Tue, so:

Tuesday at ~08:30 - shutdown SPIDER, swap back to red socket UPS, reboot (5-10 minutes offline)

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Thursday 19 November 2009 01:03 pm

SPIDER has 2 servers, plus a development/test system. The main server (Dell PE2950) is in the SIPBS server room rack in the Todd wing of SIBS. The live backup (PE2600, sits there mirroring everything as it happens) is an older tower system sat next to it. The dev server is an even older PE2400, and sits under a bench in a lab on the 4th floor of the Robertson wing. Hi-tech stuff. Grand total of about £5k worth of servers. The server rack in the todd wing has a UPS that is wired into a special 16amp supply known as the 'red sockets'. There is also a normal mains supply with a 2nd UPS.

At present, contractors are busy putting a nice new building up next to the Todd wing. They need to turn the power off at the weekend for some reason. On Monday, this was going to be just for saturday, and they'd be able to run power in to the server room. We were going to plug SPIDER into a secondary mains supply and all would be well (The backup can just be turned off).

This morning, its all change, as now they want to shut off power on Friday for a couple of hours, then again on Monday, as well as doing some stuff on Saturday. Which supplies are getting cut just now is not clear, so the current plan is to turn SPIDER off, as without clear notice of what supplies are getting cut when, its impossible to hook up the UPS to a supply that will be 'alive' all weekend. JD has a meeting with the electricians this afternoon, so things may change, but for now the safest option is to shut the server down on Saturday (power out when server running = bad) and cross fingers it all reboots correctly (hard to test this kind of thing, hence cant be sure it will work). I'll update here and via SPIDER news if there are any changes.

Students with assignments due over the weekend - 2 choices. One, submit on friday. If you do this, and SPIDER's back up on Sat/Sun, you can always delete your submission and reload another version; or two, chance it and hope SPIDER is alive and well on Saturday afternoon/ Sunday. If you go with option 2 and the system is down, I'll be kicking it back to life on Monday morning around 09:00. Not sure how your academics will treat a late submission due to 'technical' issues - check with your department.




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Thankfully it didn't come to that. Spider LIVES!!!

Posted by Balal Sunday 22 November 2009 09:47 pm


yes, SPIDER did stay up all the time, sadly the rest of the network was off for a lot longer than planned (around 7 hours on Saturday from about 3pm until around 10.30pm). And whatever they were doing didn't go to plan either - see my latest blog post...

Posted by Ian Monday 23 November 2009 11:46 am

External URL

Monday 16 November 2009 12:49 pm

This blog can be accessed externally here:


Posted by tim

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this week's tweaks

Friday 13 November 2009 04:55 pm

Template site
fixed registration to work with both SU and externals; fixed members page to work correctly with file manager, meetings and profile editor links. Updated news tool to allow for summary + main story and added option to show/hide news on main news page.

SIPBS site/ deptWeb module
updated to allow users to delete available PG projects

sendEmails & assignments
updated to handle attachments - working for assignment/feedback option. Need to decide if this will be allowed from news postings (technically easy, but sending attachments uses up bandwidth)

questionnaire marking
fixed a few bugs in the 'questionnaire as quiz' marking for pg tutor level markers (updates to showQuestionnaire_marking, qn_marking, inc_showQuestionnaire)

as per previous post, discussion posts can now be moved between threads and/or used to start new threads. Replies can also be moved and have cascade update of rankings in original/ target threads to keep posting order.

updated drug dictionary to hold drug formulation - simpiifies system. Update scenario question type to make use of this change. Migrated changes from stand-alone to SPIDER module version of script on dev server - note, will need to update on live soon (v5?)

booking system
modification to booking tool to allow sign up to staff calendars nearing completion on DEV server; includes reminders to those signed up.

drag boxes module/navigation
bug fixes for IE

bug fix in single MCQ self assessments

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discussion tweaks

Wednesday 11 November 2009 04:03 pm

admins, class editors and class tutors are now able to move discussion posts between threads. Class editors and tutors are limited to posts made in class/group forums for which they have editor rights. Moving threads between forums is still restricted to admins. However, this change does allow for:

- post(s) to be appended to other threads
- post(s) to removed from a thread to create a new thread
- thread topics to be renamed (move post + replies to a newly named thread)

This feature should help to 'tidy' forums where users post to the wrong thread, go off-topic or create new threads instead of replying to existing ones.


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recent updates

Friday 06 November 2009 04:17 pm

updated the script to allow class tutors marking rights without needing to 'own' a group - if the tutor is assigned as a tutor for the group, they can now mark questionnaires run in quiz mode.

template site
fixed bug in inc_news presentation

myAssignments info
as per previous blog post - security bug fixed

staff can now email feedback to students directly from the assignment tool (updated sendEmails, messaging and addNews to pass 'return' page so that sendEmails works with all tools)

fixed bug causing multiple identical categories in the web links to be shown

myFiles_info, editContent, file_manager
bug fix to prevent multiple categories with different ranks appear in the category drop downs

viewGroup/ showGroup
updated class view group page to show x/n for each group to indicate how many spaces are left in group (27/30 etc); showGroup now correctly allows class tutors who are responsible for group view group-wide discussion contributions

updated to allow database to work with data back to 2004

update with template login changes and 'forgotten password' features

fixed security so that class editors can correctly assign class tutors

help wiki
updates to assignments (add changes from above) and psychology assessments (using questionnaires in quiz mode)

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myAssignments bug

Tuesday 03 November 2009 03:37 pm

fixed a bug allowing users to append random ID numbers to the assignment details script. The script now checks ownership of the assignment matches the current user before displaying anything. Thanks to Scott Gardiner for pointing out this bug.

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October Stats

Tuesday 03 November 2009 09:58 am

MonthPage Visit %increase visits
%increase users
 October 2009
 3,193,873 36.5 9,132 3.99
 October 2008 2,338,527 0.02 8,781 4.3
 October 2007 2,338,049
 - 8,417 

From the logs for these months, there doesn't appear to be any major shifts in usage patterns, with the top 3  pages visited still being showClass (class home page), showContent (lecture notes/slides etc) and downloader (actual downloads of content)

 October 2007
showClass.php 426,777  18.25
showContent.php 346,451  14.82
downloader.php 324,367  13.87
myHome.php 250,955  10.73
classes.php 211,023 9.03


 October 2008
showClass.php 422448  18.06
showContent.php 358237  15.32
downloader.php 356461  15.24
myHome.php 246203  10.53
classes.php 228718



 October 2009
downloader.php 540490  16.92
showClass.php 458784  14.36
showContent.php 371878  11.64
myHome.php 289535  9.07
classes.php 275482 8.63


The % have moved slightly in favour of the downloads, indicating that users are downloading slightly more files per visit to a class than before, but the  overall changes are not very great (~1.2-1.7% per session drift upwards in downloading).

What does this mean? Not much, just still unsure as to why we've had a 36% increase in page visits but only a 4% increase in the user-base.  Further analysis may help to define what's caused this upsurge in usage, but its possibly just due to an overall higher utility of the system across the board by all user groups.

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