Front Porch Landscaping Conitnues

I’ve made more progress on the front porch after not doing much for several weeks.

The previous owners had a white, chalk like rock around the perimeter of the raised bed. This rock was popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s and I hate it. The problem with this rock is that its light weight and it ends up all over the place. I also don’t think they are very attractive.

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I removed the white rocks and replaced them with grey river rocks from the south side of my yard. I also put the same grey river rocks on the other side of the walkway. I’m making good progress at reducing the rocks on the south side of my yard by reusing them elsewhere in my landscape.

I put together a rough draft of how I would like my front yard to look in OmniGraffle. The plan shows red areas as walls and yellow areas are new pavement.

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The plan shows a triangular jog of the wall, this wall layout is mean to mirror the roof pitch and angle. I’m also planning walkways out to the sidewalk that doesn’t exist (the city is talking about adding them) and around the north side of the house. I’m not yet sure if I want to put in concrete or pavers and I’m experimenting with some pavers I picked up from Home Depot. They are concrete with a variation in color and have a similar look to slate.

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AMD Breaches Intel's Patents

Intel has notified AMD that AMD has breached it’s cross patent licensing by sharing those patents with AMD’s spin-off foundry company. What I find most humorous is one part of a Buisnesswire article.

In response to the notification AMD claimed Intel breached the agreement by notifying AMD of its breach.

Good job AMD. That will show Intel!

The Pain Of Forced Switching To A New Web Hosting Provider

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a few changes and other screwey things happening on this site. On 9 March 2009 IĀ receivedĀ a email from my then hosting provider MacHighway.

Unfortunately, we’ve needed to suspend your blog, greginthedesert.net. Your site is regularly using between 30 – 99% of the CPU on that server. It appears that your site is getting around 161k hits per month. The good news is that Technorati estimates that a blog getting 100k his a month is worth $75k/year. The bad news is that it’s far exceeds the fair use policy of our shared hosting environment. Your sites’ needs have outgrown what a shared hosting provider can offer.

Additionally, your site calls on a tremendous amount of resources with all of the dynamic information that the site needs to load in order just to display the front page. This is exacerbating the problem and should definitely be trimmed down.

I totally understand how this was a problem and I can see how I made it worse with some of the stuff I was using to generate my blog since I have been experimenting with plug-in’s and templates. I replied to the support ticket and said I had a number of ideas on how to reduce the CPU usage of my blog and that I wasn’t coming close to my bandwidth or disk usage quotas. They were having none of it and said move my blog elsewhere.

It also would have been nice if they could have given me some heads up about the excessive CPU usage. I guess they didn’t want me as their customer. It’s too bad since the few other issues I had with MacHighway were well taken care of.

I started to look for a non-shared hosting provider. Dedicated hosting is expensive, the cheapest I found was nearly $100 a month. Even though the MacHighway support guy suggested my blog should be worth $75,000, I make tens of dollars a year on advertising, not hundreds. There is no way I can afford dedicated hosting. Also, the 161,000 hits a month I get are only translating to about 9,000 real people a month. I also can only see where 58K hits a month are coming from including robots, image leachers, etc.

After a searching around for a few days including local services providers I ended up going with another shared hosting provider: Dream Host. In fact, there’s a number of things I like about them but that’s a blog post for another day.

MacHighway temporarily enabled my blog so I could export my data. I copied all the WordPress directories to my hard drive, exported the database and exported a WXR file. Just in case the database dump failed to import.

After getting my domain redirected to the new servers at DreamHost and WordPress installed, I attempted to import the database. The raw sql file is 230MB and compressed it’s 22MB, far more than the 7MB limit that the phpmyadmin allows. I had to become familiar with the command line to do the import. After contacting DreamHost support because a few things weren’t properly configured on my account I attempted to try the command line import sequence. The import failed on line two, where the sql file’s phpmyadmin version was 2.11.9.4 and DreamHost’s version is 2.11.9.3. I commented that line out and tried the import again, next fail was at line 7.

I contacted DreamHost support to see what they would say about the situation. They tried importing and found several lines which failed. The support person suggested that I continue to comment out lines which fail. I thought that was a bad idea since many of those line look like important parts of the database creation process and I didn’t know how long this editing-upload-fail-repeat process would continue.

Database import wasn’t going to work. I started working on importing the WXR file. My import file was 10.6 MB, bigger than than the 7MB limit imposed by wordpress for import files. I compressed it, which I read elsewhere could overcome the import size limitation. Even though it brought the file under 7MB, it could not get it to sucessfully import. I had two results with the importing of the WXR file, sometime the site would just hang sometime it would give me a 408 page.

I went through and removed the 14,000 plus but that didn’t change the results. I broke the WXR file into several small files and was able to have successful imports. I went through a process of having one half of the cut up file succeeded importing and the other half fail. It has become clear that there is some part at the beginning of the WXR that is corrupt or some other problem that is confusing the import process.

There are still abut 400 posts left to import, but the majority of the important ones are there and I will continue to go through the process of breaking up the remainder of the WXR file until I find the problem entry. Although I learned a lot about WordPress and phpmyadmin and SQL databases, I’m looking forward to getting this whole ordeal behind me and return to blogging.

Front Porch Raised Desert Garden

The temperature has been in the 60’s and 70’s in Rio Rancho and Albuquerque this last week. I decided to stop work on the master bathroom project and foucus on outdoor projects why the weather is good. There’s a good chance I will be sent out of town in spring and early summer so I won’t get a lot of chance work on the outdoor projects until fall.

There’s a structure in on my front porch under my front window, the best I can think to call it is a flower box or a raised planting bed. It’s about 8 feet long and two feet wide and a permanent structure made of brick.

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The previous owners had something growing in it. I’m not sure what it was as there is no signs of life in it and it’s filled with potting soil. The only thing that it has really been used for is a litter box for the neighborhood cats.

This area of the front of my house is ugly and I get disgusted to look at it every day I walk by it. I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to do with this area for a while, I considered tearing it out and concreting the whole area but that’s going to be just as ugly as the mess that is already there. I decided to make it into a desert rock garden with a few low water usage native plants. This will also be the prototype for what the rest of the front yard will look like.

I’m using low water usage desert plants in the yard which generally like sandy soil. I removed about 6 inches of potting soil (and cat crap) from the raised bed and replaced it with sandy New Mexico dirt from the backyard. I didn’t worry too much about the dirt being clean and I doubt the plants will care.

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Of of my goals with this project is try and reuse materials I already have. I searched my property for volunteer plants that have sprouted up around the yard. I found two different types of Yucca in the yard (yucca is the state flower of New Mexico). Yucca is a rhizome and from what I have read, appear to be pretty forgiving when removing from the ground.

There was one kind of Yucca in the very front of my property near the road. It was challenge digging these two plants up because of the spikes on the end of their leaves.

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Further up my property there are several more mature Yucca plants of a different variety. They had some smaller plants sprouting near them. The smaller plants were much easier to dig up. I actually don’t know exactly what kind of Yucca varieties any of these plants are.

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I was dissapointed that I didn’t find any cacutus anywhere on my property. I ended up buying a small barrel cactus from Lowes for about $10. In retrospect, it was probably easier to buy the cactus and transplant it from the panter rather than dig it up. Getting it out of the planter was difficult enough by itself. Each of the Yucca plants would have probably cost about $10 each, so I saved about $40 in plantings.

I found some small bunches of what I believe is buffalo grass on the south side of my property. They have been growing there for several years but I have a feeling they won’t survive due to the lack of a full day’s sun at the front of my house.

The material I have in the most abundance is rock. It’s unfortunately the kind of rock I would rather not have. It’s small, less than 1 inch, round and grey river rock. The original landscapers were in love with this stuff. It’s everywhere, in the front yard, in the backyard and on the side yard.

The side yard has a thick layer of the round river rock and this is where I access my back yard with a vehicle. Driving on round river rock is very much like driving on marbles. A better choice would be to use the angular aggregate and if I was starting over I would use decomposed granite. In any case I’m stuck with this stuff so I will try to reuse as much of it as I can and make it look nice.

There’s also a small amount of dark red volcanic rock aggregate, which is native to New Mexico, and larger boulders in the yard. I used both the river rock and the volcanic in the raised bed.

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This is my first attempt at desert landscaping and I think the results came out good. You can view all the photos of front porch landscaping project on Flickr.

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The next project will be to do something about the ugly 1970’s white rock that borders the raised bed.