Recently in “Server News” Category

Expired guest accounts

A few dozen non-Princeton users are using the Guest Account Provisioning Service to access the blog admin interface. The longest duration for these accounts is one year after the request date; however, it is possible to request a reactivation of a guest account for an additional year.

If you find that you can no longer log into the blog admin interface with your guest account, first check on the status of your account in the Guest Services section of the Guest Account Provisioning Service site. You should try to use the "Request Password Reset Code" for your account. That will generate an email with a link. Opening that link will tell you whether your account has expired.

If your guest account has expired, and you still want to access your blog; send an email to blogs@princeton.edu, and we will request a reactivation.

Syntax highlighting disabled

By default, Movable Type template editing screens load a JavaScript that dynamically adds line numbers and color-coding to the code while editing. This feature uses a third-party script called “CodePress,” which is no longer actively developed and does not work with Safari.

I was forced to disable the CodePress script system-wide because the script has a nasty habit of unexpectedly wiping out the contents of a template upon save. I suspect that this was more likely to happen if code was pasted into the editing area. The contents of templates are all stored in the database, so it would be possible to recover the deleted code from a nightly backup; however, this is an unnecessary inconvenience that site administrators should not have to worry about.

If you relied on the line numbers and syntax highlighting, I would recommend that you cut and paste the code into an external text editor and then paste the code back into Movable Type after editing.

Brief outage 3/28, Mon. morning

There will be a brief emergency outage of the blogs.princeton.edu server on Monday, March 28. It will be sometime between 8:30 and 9 AM. OIT Enterprise Servers and Storage needs to add another CPU to the virtual machine for blogs.

The outage should last no longer than 10 minutes.

Amok time (resolved)

Update: After Tuesday morning's system configuration changes, the time on the blog server does not appear to be drifting.

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For the past couple of weeks, the system time on the blog server has been drifting away from actual time at a rate of approximately 1.5 minutes for every minute of real time.

We suspect the issue has something to do with the interaction of the Linux kernel with the virtual machine (VM) server software. We are uncertain when this problem actually began. We are still waiting for an official response to a support request sent last week to VMware, the VM software vendor.

As a workaround, the server is now regularly resetting its system time against a network time server.

The problem has likely manifested itself in the following ways:

  • Inaccurate entry post date & times and inaccurate comment post dates & times
  • Scheduled posts that either post too early, too late, or not at all
  • Inaccurate dates in RSS feeds
  • Periodic page rebuilds not executing properly

Until this problem is fully resolved, I recommend the following workarounds:

  • Manually backdating entries according the the correct date and time
  • Not relying on scheduled publishing and manually verifying that items were published as scheduled
  • Clicking the "Publish Site" button in the admin interface if you notice that one of your pages has not updated with new content (new comments, for example).

I apologize for the inconvenience and hope that we will have a resolution to this problem soon.

Admin directory change, 7/13

Following the blog server migration on Tuesday, July 13, there will be a change to the URL for the Movable Type admin interface that will impact some users of the older MT version. 

https://blogs.princeton.edu/mt 

will now point to: 

https://blogs.princeton.edu/mt4 

The "mt4" URL will work exactly the same as before, but users of the current system will also have the "mt" option, and documentation will use the "mt" URL. 

Most affected will be users of the older Movable Type 3 (Movable Type Enterprise 1.56) system. Since this instance will no longer use the "mt" address, these user will have to use the following address: 

https://blogs.princeton.edu/mt3 

There will also be an explanation of this on the "mt" login page after the migration.

Adding non-Princeton users

Blog administrators sometimes need to add users who have no direct affiliation with Princeton University. One past solution was to have a department create a Departmental Computer User (DCU) account. Another option was to create an "mt underscore" user and direct that user to a separate (no longer active) instance at blogs2.princeton.edu.

Fortunately, OIT's Security and Data Protection group came up with a much more elegant solution. Their Guest Account Provisioning service allows a Princeton University faculty or staff member to sponsor up to 25 guest accounts. A sponsor can set up and manage these accounts via an easy-to-use online tool.

The username for a guest account is the guest user's e-mail address. A common mistake is to leave off the text following the @. Guest accounts expire after one year, but can be renewed.

Once a sponsor has created a guest account, he or she can e-mail blogs@princeton.edu to request that the new user be added to the blog system.

Please carefully review the KnowledgeBase article about Guest Account Provisioning before proceeding with guest account creation.

MTE 4 rolled back to 4.32

On February 3, I attempted the minor upgrade from Movable Type Enterprise 4.32 to version 4.33. This upgrade promised a few bug fixes and security patches. Unfortunately, later that day I discovered a bug with the publishing of date-based archives. I confirmed this bug on forums.movabletype.org.

Six Apart has released a patch to 4.33 that must be manually applied. We will instead wait for the official 4.34 release.

Legacy MTE upgraded to 1.56

So far we have only been migrating users to Movable Type Enterprise (MTE) 4.x upon request. Quite a few users still manage their blogs through our legacy installation at blogs.princeton.edu/mt.

The mixed environment of Princeton LDAP and non-LDAP users forced us to keep that version of Movable Type Enterprise at 1.0.3 (MTE 1.x is equivalent to MT 3.x). This was an undesirable security risk. The recent introduction of the Guest Account Provisioning (GAP) service allowed us to remove non-LDAP users from the system, freeing us to move to MTE 1.56.

Users should not have noticed any minor changes to the user interface; most of the visible changes in this version dealt with user management. Those with questions about the updated version, or those who would like to migrate their blog to MTE 4 should contact blogs@princeton.edu.

More anti-spam ammo

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A new anti-spam CAPTCHA plugin, called Comment Challenge is now installed on the blog server.

The battle between blog administrators and spammers is an ever-escalating arms race. Every time a new tool for blocking or filtering spam comments is released, the spammers develop new technologies and new tactics so that their marketing messages about “enhancements,” online gambling, and “morgage” loans continue to be posted all over the web.

This blog service already uses the SpamLookup and Akismet plug-ins, which rely on keyword filters and URL blacklists. However, an annoying new tactic is gaining popularity among spammers. They use their automated scripts or “spambots” to randomly post dozens and dozens of blog comments with random text and legitimate website links (like cnn.com, apple.com, cnet.com, etc). The spammers’ goals include poisoning the filters with false positives and sneaking their marketing links among the the dozens of comments with “legitimate” links.

So far the most reliable way to foil a spambot is with a CAPTCHA (an acronym for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart).

One type of CAPTHCA, the image CAPTCHA, generates wildly distorted letters and/or numerals and overlays them on psychedelic backgrounds. The intention is to foil optical character recognition (OCR) software; however, image CAPTCHAs can be a barrier to the visually impaired, and deciphering them can be difficult even for those with perfect vision.

The Comment Challenge plug-in instead creates a “challenge and response” CAPTCHA. With this plug-in, a blog administrator creates a simple question that only a human should be able to answer. If a comment is not submitted along with the proper response, it goes into the comment junk folder.

To use this plug-in on your blog, you will need to activate it, choose a question and response, add a template tag to two of your templates, and rebuild your site. Full instructions are below.

Movable Type Enterprise is here

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Update: The transition to Movable Type Enterprise as the primary administration interface occurred around 8:50 AM this morning. If you experience any problems, please contact blogs@princeton.edu.

Princeton University recently purchased a license for Movable Type Enterprise. We will make the move to Movable Type Enterprise at 9 AM on Tuesday, September 26.

For most of our users, the transition will be barely noticeable. The code base for Movable Type Enterprise is the same as Movable Type 3.3. Both products use the same database, the same template tags, the same plug-ins.

An outage will not be necessary. In fact, both systems are currently running in parallel on the server, accessing the same information. Once we make the change, the next time you log-in, you may see a slightly altered log-in screen and blogs.princeton.edu/mt will take you to the MT Enterprise admin screen.

The are a few things that you should be aware of with the Enterprise upgrade:

  • LDAP Support: A PU Blog Service user who is also in the Princeton University directory may now log in to the admin interface using his or her Princeton NetID and LDAP password. If you were assigned a Movable Type password, that password will continue to work. We are keeping both password systems in place because we need to support users who are not in the Princeton directory. Keep in mind, though, that changing your password under the Author Profile will change your Movable Type password, not your Princeton LDAP password. Requesting a password reset at the log-in screen will reset your Movable Type password, not your LDAP password.
  • Version Number: The current version number of Movable Type Enterprise is 1.02. The current version number of Movable Type is 3.32. After a site rebuild, many of your site pages may incorrectly report the version number (ex. Powered by Movable Type 1.02). If this concerns you, you can update your templates. Find the following code in your Main Index and archive templates (and/or any other custom templates :
    Replace it with:
  • Admin interface: Not much has changed. Movable Type Enterprise’s admin interface looks almost identical. Here’s the new header: MTE header
    We also added a custom logo in the footer.

Soon after the transition, we will post some additional tutorials to explain many of the latest features added to the Movable Type system, including entry tags and the Widget Manager.

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