August 2016

A quick walk around Bristol

Posted by on Aug 21, 2016 in Travel, UK Landmarks and Visitor Sights

Bristol's Harbourside Cranes

Bristol’s Harbourside Cranes
(photo by Grant Pollard/Films.GB)

I had a little time to spare in Bristol so took a stroll to the nearby harbourside. I find the city a perplexing place… the local council is simply obsessed with the fact that Wallace & Gromit was made here which quickly becomes a dull fact considering how few people actually made it and have anything to do with the animation company.

What Bristol does have going for it is a serious history of sea-trading,  and as a staging post for voyages by Cabot to the New world…. look here’s an old ship to prove it.

ship

This history does, unfortunately, involve a LOT of slave trading…. so i guess trying to link the place more with comedy animation has a logical spin to it.

Along with the slaves of course came tobacco and many other taxable items – which is why there’s still quite a few old-world warehouses dotted around the city, such as this one on Orchard Lane which is to the rear of the Bristol Hippodrome in the city centre.

Back Alleys of Bristol

Back Alleys of Bristol
(Photo by Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

Just about the only modern building of any note is the Colston Tower – again this is slap in the centre of town and actually ages well….unlike the Lloyds building which looks….. dismal… but presumably made the architects a ton of money. I can’t even bear to photograph the Lloyds building… i am fearful that if i line it up in a viewfinder i may simply black-out as my brain tries to work out how such a cataclysmic turd could be built…. so here’s the Colston Tower instead.

Colston Tower, Bristol

Colston Tower, Bristol
(Photo by Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

Nearly opposite the Colston Tower is the Colston Hall… a concert venue of some substance and grandeur. Its had a new wing tacked onto the side to accommodate a decent bar and generally bring the venue into the 21st century.. it seems to work.

Colston Hall - the 'new' wing

Colston Hall – the ‘new’ wing
(Photo by Grant Pollard/Films.GB)

The last time i was inside there it was to see Motorhead – and yes i did wear ear plugs because i’m a wimp. Lemmy did look old though…. i gave him about a year and i was correct (unfortunately).

Before seeing anything at the Colston Hall (or the nearby O2 Academy) i’d recommend a drink in Bristol’s oldest pub (not that i’ve researched this and verified it… but it’s written on the outside which is good enough for me because i’m credulous as hell).

Bristol's oldest pub

Bristol’s oldest pub
(Photo by Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

It’s old, it’s creaky and smells of beer like any good pub should. More importantly it’s cheaper than the bar at the Colston Hall and you can drink like an adult from a glass that’s actually made of glass and not plastic.

Bristol's oldest pub

Bristol’s oldest pub
(Photo by Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

From here i walked up toward a local landmark called Christmas steps.

Christmas Steps, Bristol

Bristol’s Christmas Steps
(Photo by Grant Pollard/Films.Gb)

The area houses some quirky pubs, barbers, and a fish and chips place that looks like it belongs in Downton Abbey.  It’s worth a visit before returning harbourside and taking in a little ferry ride on one of the yellow harbour tour boats.

Bristol Harbour

Bristol Harbour

Hey Apache where’s my httpd.conf ? (2)

Posted by on Aug 20, 2016 in Web & Server

This post follows on from part 1 where i was getting to grips with the new structure of a Debian Jessie install of Apache2.4. It deals with the virtual server file needed to set up a site, activation and some basic canonical issues  such as redirecting a www site to the non-www version.

I hope the following makes sense to anyone setting up a new virtual host in Debian Jessie.   It works for me so theoretically should work for others. There were a couple of things that were different in this installation so i hope this helps anyone with the same hiccups.

For a start everytime i tried to enable the new site  using the “a2ensite” command and pointing to new site’s .conf file i was told by Debian that the site didn’t exist.

For example if i had a Virtual host set up in the file “mylovelysite.conf” inside the folder “sites-available” i couldn’t simply use the command a2ensite  (path to) /my lovelysite.conf

everytime i did… i got an error message saying the site didn’t exist.

Debian Jessie simply requires you to use the command “a2ensite mylovelysite”. It’s already looking in the ‘sites available’ folder and doesn’t  need a path or to be told to look for a .conf file. The process has therefore become a little simpler.

So with the following virtual host set up in a field called “mylovelysite.conf” which resides in the /etc/apache2/sites-available directory…

 

<VirtualHost *:80>

ServerName mylovelysite.com
ServerAlias *.mylovelysite.com
ServerAdmin youremail@mylovelysite.com
DocumentRoot /var/www/mylovelysite/public_html/
ErrorLog /var/www/mylovelysite/logs/error.log
CustomLog /var/www/mylovelysite/logs/access.log combined

</VirtualHost *:80>

I simply used the command  > a2ensite mylovelysite and Debian was able to activate it.

The next problem was that I found that the mod_rewrites, redirects and handling of canonical names that worked in a previous Debian Apache installation simply weren’t working in the new set-up. Amongst other things such as syntax errors i was getting the ‘too many redirects’ error message from some browsers  – indicating that the server was caught in a self referencing loop where it re-wrote a request, then failed to match it so rewrote it again…and so on ad infinitum.

Reading Newer Apache documentation indicated that i could use matching of the HTTP_HOST being asked for to set a permanent redirect without resorting to mod_rewrite and getting into those terrible redirect loops.

To do this you can use <if>

I prefer sites NOT to use the www prefix and to use the non www site name as the canonical name.  so to set the non www sitename as the canonical name and redirect any other call to the site as that clean non prefixed version i wrote the following inside the virtual host

<If “%{HTTP_HOST} !=‘mylovelysite.com'”>
Redirect permanent “/” “http://mylovelysite.com/”
</If>

Effectively it says if the request is NOT for “mylovelysite.com” then redirect to “mylovelysite.com” and serve it up.

Note that i’m not bothered about using any subdomains here so i don’t have that complication. If you want to achieve the reverse (redirecting non-www names to the www version) then i guess you’d write

<If “%{HTTP_HOST} !=‘www.mylovelysite.com'”>
Redirect permanent “/” “http://www.mylovelysite.com/”
</If>

If any pages in your new site have moved permanently this is also where you’d put in any permanent redirects you require.

For example the /samples.html page that exited on a site  was moved to a page called currentwork.html.

To achieve that i wrote

Redirect permanent /samples.html /currentwork.html

So now the whole virtual host file looks like this:

<VirtualHost *:80>

ServerName mylovelysite.com
ServerAlias *.mylovelysite.com
ServerAdmin youremail@mylovelysite.com
DocumentRoot /var/www/mylovelysite/public_html/
ErrorLog /var/www/mylovelysite/logs/error.log
CustomLog /var/www/mylovelysite/logs/access.log combined

<If “%{HTTP_HOST} !=‘mylovelysite.com'”>
Redirect permanent “/” “http://mylovelysite.com/”
</If>

Redirect permanent /samples.html /currentwork.html

</VirtualHost *:80>

It all seems to work, and by using the <if> directive you can achieve some pretty powerful screening of requests that gives you a lot of control over access to the site and what’s served up.

Hey Apache what happened to my httpd.conf ?

Posted by on Aug 18, 2016 in Web & Server

Running Apache 2.4 on Debian Jessie

So there i was casually upgrading a friends server to Apache 2.4 and looking for the httpd.conf file in Debian Jessie when i realised it had been effectively ‘done away with’.

RIP…… HTTPD.CONF

No only that but, because of syntax changes, a lot of older server-wide configurations and directives using mod-rewrite and redirect were effectively not going to work this time around wherever i put them.

The new /etc/apache2 folder looks like this;

etc:apache2

That little apache2.conf file is important because it now sets a framework to form the main configuration and draws in virtual servers available and other directives and instructions according to what you ask it to pull in.

Here’s what it tells you at the head when you open it up;
apach2conf-01

So you now have a hierarchy set out – controlled by apache2.conf which ‘sucks in’ other configurations set by the user such as which virtual hosts to set, server-wide security configurations etc. Heck it’s pretty much set it out in black and white in the file itself;

apach2conf-02

The apache2 file itself takes care of including the virtual host configurations and whatever generic directives or snippets you care to set..

apache includes

Setting up those virtual hosts and instructing Debian to enable modules and enable the sites via symlinks isn’t too hard – even for a numb-nuts like me.

In Part 2 i’ll take a look a working set up and how to get there. Also how my handling of things like canonical names and permanent re-directs changed to accommodate Apache on Debian Jessie.

Timanfaya and El Hierro

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 in Europe, Photography, Travel

Twisty winding roads and a semi-lunar landscape mark out areas of the Canary Islands as being a little bit special.

Timanfaya 'Fire Mountain'

Timanfaya ‘Fire Mountain’ National Park in Lanzarote
(Photo by G Pollard / Films.GB)

An accessible location for solidified lava flows and (still active) calderas is in the north of Lanzarote; in the national park known as Timanfaya. There are some pretty good views across the lower ash plains and towards the larger volcanic basins.

Caldera at Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote

A Large Caldera at Timanfaya ‘Fire Mountain’ National Park in Lanzarote
(Photo by G Pollard / Films.GB)

A plus point of a visit to this area is that you can then pop over to the volcanic island of El Hierro – seen here from the mainland.

Picture of El Hierro Island

The Island of El Hierro seen from the Lanzarote Mainland
(Photo by G Pollard / Films.GB)

I used a 500mm mirror lens to enlarge the view of the port at E Hierro – the problem with this particular lens is that it’s not the sharpest… however it’s so small and light that sometimes i can trade resolution for the simple pleasure of being able to carry it all day without breaking into a sweat.

The Port at El Hierro

The Port at El Hierro with volcanic caldera in background
(Photo by G Pollard / Films.GB)

I may also have used a X2 enlarger on this shot…. to be honest i can’t remember. The problem with using the 1000mm lens this doubler produces is that the slightest wind or tremble produces noticeable shudder through the lens; making it hard to use for video except in very sheltered conditions.