Aardvark Topsites & PHP v7.2 Fix

Aardvark Topsites is a php script that was originally developed about 15 years ago, designed to present websites as a dynamic ordered list. A topsites list ranks a group of related sites by popularity. Webmasters join the topsites list and are given a button to put on their site and link back to the topsites list. Aardvark Topsites PHP is a free topsites script built on PHP and MySQL. It is licensed under the GNU General Public License. The last official release was in 2009.

Aardvark has a number of issues but the most annoying for those running the script are the poor spam detection and the inability to run under recent releases of php. I have been running an Aardvark topsites script since 2005 (usaweatherfinder.com) and have managed to work around both of the most annoying problems mentioned above.

First, the annoying spam issue. This was a very low tech but successful fix. After trying capcha changes and other coding tricks I finally just changed my sign-up form. Since most spam applications are bot driven, I added a question that says “Enter the SECRET PASSWORD”. The answer is given clearly and obviously in the separate sign-up instructions page where it says:

"How do I answer the question about Secret Password? The Secret Password is 
CUMULUS (all capital letters)

Since adding this question I have had zero spam sign-up attempts.

The second problem was getting it to run on any php version above 5.6. Since support for php 5 ended in 2018 and my hosting platform was going to begin charging a monthly fee to continue using it, I looked and came up with a solution that allows running ATS on php 7.2 with a bare minimum of code changes. I have to give credit to Github user rubo77 for some of the code which was modified to work on ATS. Here is what I did.

  1. Create a new file named fix_mysql.inc.php located in three locations. ROOT, SOURCES, and SOURCES/SQL. It essentially creates new global variables that replace all mysql_* calls with the new mysqli_* calls, and a few other issues. The code can be downloaded as a .txt file here. Just rename the file with a .php extension instead of .txt.
  2. Add the following single line near the top of your mysql.php file which is located in SOURCES/SQL. Add it after the comments section.
        include_once('fix_mysql.inc.php');

That’s all. You should then be able to change your php version to 7.2.

If you have any questions you can reach me using the Contact Me page on this site or the link on usaweatherfinder.com. Hope this helps someone.

Surgery for Carpal Tunnel

Over the past year I have noticed a steadily increasing numbness in my right hand, primarily affecting my thumb and middle finger. A trip to an orthopedist confirmed a carpal tunnel constriction diagnosis. In addition to the numbness the doctor pointed out a significant muscle atrophy of my Opponens muscle at the base of my thumb.

So, open release carpal tunnel surgery was completed a few weeks ago.  It was an easy procedure performed on an outpatient basis that took 15-20 minutes and kept me there for a few hours total. It was done under MAP (Managed Anesthesia Care), the same twilight sedation used for a colonoscopy. I missed two days of work and have been back doing modified light duties.

Recovery was straightforward; OTC pain meds for a day or so, then just a bandage until the 6 sutures were removed 12 days later.

After two weeks I notice little improvement, in fact the nerve pain seems more pronounced. My doctor says that the nerves will slowly begin to recover from being pinched, but may take 90 days or more, during which time they will cause some acute sharp pain as they come back online.

I guess this is what I get for using a keyboard and mouse for over 36 years.

Long Overdue Update

Lots has happened in the past couple years. Left Florida and moved north to New Jersey. I recently spent some time fixing a bunch of issues with this blog and figured I would post some photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reached some goals…

IMG_0597I‘ve been trying to lose some weight since I moved to Florida in April and I finally hit my first goal. I started at a whopping 277 and set a target on 230, which I reached today!  47 pounds shed!

The trick for me was to exercise regularly. I began tracking activity with Runkeeper, first walking and then running/walking intervals. I ran my first 5K on June 14, and have done 2 more since.

In addition to losing the weight, I also ran a personal best pace time yesterday!

I’ve now established a second weight loss goal of getting down to 199 lbs. If I’m dedicated it should happen between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I feel good!

I’m also tracking calories using the iPhone and web app LoseIt. I tried myfitnesspal which is now owned by Under Armour, but found it more cumbersome and slow to enter nutrition informationmfp.

Even though the graphic above shows my progress using myfitnesspal, I don’t ever actually log in or use it to track anything. It receives automatic weight updates from my Fitbit Aria scale which tracks my weight daily, and automatically generates the cool progress graphics.

Another great benefit of all this activity is that my Withings Blood Pressure monitor has confirmed that my BP has been dropping steadily.

 

 

 

The Great American Bacon Race!

Fun event, but a little bit pricey. I guess they need to cover the cost of giving away bacon at two water/bacon stations during the run, and at the bacon party afterwards. Oh, and also pay for the big honkin’ heavy bacon finisher medallions.


The Orlando Eye

The Orlando Eye opened on May 4, 2015 and I finally went to check it out!

My flight time was scheduled for 4:45 (tickets online in advance), but I received an email about an hour ahead saying it was ‘not in operation’ and that I could make use of my ticket anytime in the next 30 days. A quick call to them didn’t get me any more details or an estimate time of repair, but they did give me a direct number to call to check on status. So, I went for drinks at Bahama Breeze!

After several calls they finally said it was ready to fly again, and rescheduled me for 8:15.

It really is a neat ride.

 

Epcot

Took a trip to Disney Epcot, haven’t been there in 20 [click for full size image]years or so. Had a great day just walking all around Bay Lake visiting all the countries.

Lunch at Tutto Italia Ristorante in Italy and dinner at the Yachtsman Steakhouse in the Yacht Club Resort. Beautiful water ponds in China and the Victoria Gardens in Canada.

Closed the evening with fireworks at the Disney Hollywood Studios.



The Frozen Fireworks! ↓

Having a beer with my little friend


He was under my table. He talked me into saving up to 15% on some great discount auto insurance.

A Day at Lake Eola and Fireworks!

[f/4, 1/50, ISO 400, 26 mm, with a NIKON D5500 and a 18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.]

[f/4, 1/50, ISO 400, 26 mm, with a NIKON D5500 and a 18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.]

[f/5.6, 1/500, ISO 200, 200 mm, with a NIKON D5500 and a 18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6]

[f/5.6, 1/500, ISO 200, 200 mm, with a NIKON D5500 and a 18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6]

A few weeks ago I was re-reading Tony Northrup’s great DSLR guide, How to Create Stunning Digital Photography. In the section on night photography he discusses his technique for getting pictures of fireworks and I decided to try it this year. His method is simple; Manual program, set ISO to 200, aperture to 5.6, shutter to 5 seconds, and focus to infinity. Lock a cable release open (after a few test shots) to take continuous 5 second exposures throughout the show. Depending on the venue, the aperture/ISO may need to be adjusted to allow in less light, especially as the finale approaches.

The location I chose was Lake Eola Park, the 23 acre home to the Centennial Fountain that hosts the City’s annual fireworks show. Also located in the park is the Walt Disney Amphitheater, which hosts many community events and various performances year round. Today there were several bands playing and the orchestra in the evening. The Red Bull Break Dancers also took the stage.

[f/11, 5.00, ISO 125, 70 mm, with a NIKON D5500 and a 18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6]

[f/11, 5.00, ISO 125, 70 mm, with a NIKON D5500 and a 18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6]

[f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO 200, 200 mm, with a NIKON D5500 and a 18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6]

[f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO 200, 200 mm, with a NIKON D5500 and a 18.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6]

On the east side of the park is a Chinese pagoda, a Confederate States of America monument, and a playground. Each year some 130,000 people come to the area around the lake view the fireworks, so I arrived early at 3:30pm. I found a great spot right on the water and spent the afternoon with a nice young couple visiting from Germany.

The lake is home to various birds, turtles and other wildlife including the famous Eola Lake Swans. The population is limited to about 60 and is comprised of five species: Royal Mute (30-35), Australian Black (15), Whooper (8) and one each of Black Neck and Trumpeter. According to the published information, they generally get along, although there’s an interesting romantic/social dynamic at play—and even the occasional rubout. Two of the Whoopers brought in as intentional mates 15 years ago have never spoken to each other and stay on opposite ends of the lake. A mate was brought in for the Black Neck, but she rejected him, and then he started chasing baby swans. Bad idea. The Whoopers took him for a little ride, and now he sleeps with the fishes. I also saw turtles and birds fishing in the lake as evidenced by the photos. I have no idea what that thing is that is sticking its neck out of the water with the fish in its beak. When I took the picture I thought it was a snake but it clearly has a long beak.


The fireworks show was excellent and lasted about 30 minutes. Unfortunately I’ll need a wider angle lens next time to capture the action when I’m so close to the launch point.


 

Watermelon 5K – Independence Day

Got up early and drove north of downtown to the City of Winter Park for the Hunter Vision Watermelon 5K. There were over 3,300 runners and we all got free watermelon! I increased my run/walk interval to 3min/1min and it felt great. Beat my previous 5K time by 3:57.

After the run there was watermelon and bananas. I resisted the urge to join the watermelon eating contest or to dance at the stage.