Aphelion Issue 255, Volume 24
October 2020
 
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Hello and welcome to the October 2020 issue of Aphelion!

OK, let me get this out of the way first. If you're a US citizen and of legal age, please go vote next  month. I say this every election year. Let your choice be known. Participate, whether it be by early voting, absentee or mail-in ballots, or going to the polls on election day. It's none of my business who you vote for. I can only ask each of you to go and vote.

Now that that's done, By now it must be obvious to everyone that there has been a glitch in the matrix.

The bad news is that a lot of posts are now unrecoverable.

The good news is that we can rebuild.

People will have to re-register. No getting around it, if you can't log in now, you'll have to go through the registration all over again. I'm sorry, but it can't be helped. Yes, the staff and I have now learned what we can do to minimize the impact should this ever happen again. No, we did not know how to do that before. We didn't know it was necessary before this happened. Now, we do know.

You can blame this inconvenience on the spam-bots. Those buggers are relentless.

OK, here's what will happen from now on: With every new issue flip, I will run a backup of a database that saves all the forum memberships and posts. That way, if there is another crash, we will only lose the most recent month's worth of new members and posts. I have to learn how to do that. I didn't know how to so it before. Those backups will be stored in one or more of my external hard drives here at home. We will not depend on "the kindness of strangers" from now on.

I am also looking into making a backup of the entire website. Right now, it could be stored on a small thumbdrive. That backup wouldn't be as simple as firing up the old File Transfer Protocol program and clicking Copy. It'll have to be done in stages--little by little. There is a limit as to how many files can be transferred in a single go. Too many files in one gulp and the FTP shuts off. I found that out last week when I was backing up really old directories of files from back in the day, before we began our present, issue-based file system. You see, back in the day we shoved everything new into just a few directories. Those buggers got huge, and unwieldy. Now, we're more compartmentalized, with lots of tiny directories. The new way is less likely to bork the FTP. The old way is what's going to slow me down.

And no, we can't possibly put the entire website onto a single data CD. The website is just too big. I can't put a 5 pound watermelon into a 2 pound sack. Plus, there's not a way to do a multi-disk format, either. Too many files would have to be on each and every disk to make that work. But I can make backups on several different external hard drives and thumbdrives so that everything could be recoverable in an extreme emergency.

That's the plan: multiple offline backups of the site itself, updated every month as each new issue goes online, with a separate backup for the forums every month as well. The older files will be the hold-up. The newer files will be easy.

So, I'm sorry this happened, but we can rebuild. Blame the spam-bots. They caused this to happen. We'll just have to adapt faster than they do, from now on..

In other news,  Autum has fully arrived in Georgia.  Cooler days, cooler nights, and  foggy mornings have become the norm.  I've even had to run the furnace a couple of nights.  But this delight presages what looks to be a somewhat more intense Winter in North America than we have been used to having lately.  Oh, the Fall will be mild, I'm sure, but as the seasons change once again, country folk are predicting a very cold Winter.  I'm not among those people who find that charming. Winter, for me, is a torture. I do not tolerate cold weather gladly.

One benefit of the change of seasons is that for the rest of the year we should be seeing lots of shooting stars as Earth passes through several cometary paths and their debris plummets into our atmosphere to provide us with a wonderful light show. For anyone who can stand the colder nights as Autum turns to Winter, going outside to stargaze should be highly rewarding.

Seasonally speaking, a friend of mine runs a Chattanooga-area convention called Hallowcon. Because of the virus outbreak, he decided to go virtual and throw this year's con online. He is trying a novel approach to holding a streaming convention. Multiple streams running at the same time--quite like the different tracks of programming at a live convention. He's been practicing with a service called Streamyard. Most of the bugs have been worked out over the past six months or so. It seems to be working well. Check out Hallowcon 2020 online for further details.

In other, other news, my wife and I will soon become the owners of a little kit-built greenhouse we will set up in our back yard. What remains of our garden will be transplanted inside for the Winter. Anything that doesn't survive until then will be replaced in due time. We still have mustard greens, some tomato plants with fresh blooms, three different kinds of pepper plants, carrots, and what is left of this year's seeds. We also have an orange and a lemon tree sprouting, peach tree seedlings, avacados sprouting, and are planning to sprout a lime tree. I see guacamole and salsa in our future! Stay tuned for future updates, LOL!

And now is about the time I quit talking and let you get to reading. Enjoy the newest issue of Aphelion!

Dan 

 



ON THE COVER

Title: Title: SPHERE image of the disc around AB Aurigae

Courtesy: ESO/Boccaletti et al.