More Than Four

Areas of Interest, as counted by my cat

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KdenLive notes

KDenLive has been my application of choice for video editing for the last 12 months or so. I use the “standalone” Windows installation. Each time a new version is released (20.04, 20.08) I’ve had this error come up when I try to render a video:

this application failed to start: No QT platform plugin could be initialized


I’ve looked it up twice now, and for future reference, here is what I needed to do both times: Fix the paths in environment settings, because they retain the location of the previous installation:

These paths have been adjusted to match the new install for 20.08

WordPress: Unable to Select and Crop on IIS?

I was setting up a local dev instance of WordPress for one of my blogs, using IIS and PHP 7. For some reason, the Theme “Customize” feature was giving me an odd error during the image selection process. I’d select an image from the Media Library (or uploaded) and click on “Select and Crop” and then I’d get this:

imageThat says “image crop area preview. Requires mouse interaction”.

It’s the alt text for the image tag. The src=”{{data.url}}” can’t be resolved. (That’s taken out of the view page source). For some reason, that placeholder didn’t get replaced.

I don’t know why it doesn’t work, but I can tell you that after some googling, I found this discussion in which a URL rewrite rule is identified as a potential root cause.

You can find the rule under Computer Management > Services and Applications > Internet Information Services and remember to expand the site directory tree until you locate the WordPress home folder:


That might appear to work but, for me, had the side-effect of preventing the Categories and Archive date links from working correctly. I think the rule is a necessary component. I don’t recommend removing it.

Fixing another problem resolves the issue

I no longer experience the behavior described above, and I believe it is due to fixing a separate but related problem:

In my “clean room” test site, http://localhost/wordpress/lab1, I have been attempting to get easy paste image from screen snip working smoothly. It’s been messy, partly due to the problem described above. Eventually I got to a point where I’d save my post and view it, and see this:

The pasted image would not be displayed. The underlying HTML of the page looks correct:

<img src="http://localhost/wordpress/lab1/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/image.png" alt="Thing">

…which is correct. The image file is genuinely in that location. Okay, so, let’s try that URL explicitly in the browser’s address bar:

Alternatively, we can look in the log file at C:\inetpub\logs\LogFiles\W3SCV1\* and see:

2020-08-27 00:02:02 ::1 GET /wordpress/lab1/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/image.png - 80 - ::1 Mozilla/5.0+(Windows+NT+10.0;+Win64;+x64)+AppleWebKit/537.36+(KHTML,+like+Gecko)+Chrome/84.0.4147.135+Safari/537.36 http://localhost/wordpress/lab1/wp-admin/post.php?post=28&action=edit 500 50 5 0

Googling “WordPress IIS 500 URL rewrite module error” led me to this page:

I will paraphrase here because it is interesting and it could vanish from the web in the future:

IIS WordPress images 500 error

You are probably having the dreaded “broken images” problem while running WordPress under IIS. You see 500 errors logged when it is supposed to be pushing out images.

This is all about fixing permissions so that media files uploaded via WordPress will properly render. The 500 error is thrown when your server has the wrong file permissions. Also called HTTP Error 500.50 – URL Rewrite Module Error when you have Detailed errors on.

The problem is caused because PHP first uploads the document to a temporary directory (by default it is C:\Windows\Temp”) and then moves it from that directory to the actual destination /blog/wp-content/uploads subdirectory.

Because IIS does not have any permissions to C:\Windows\Temp, when the file is uploaded and moved, the file inherits NO permissions. So when IIS tries to server that file from the uploads folder, it throws error 500 which is actually a permissions error.

SOLUTION: Grant “modify” permissions to IUSR and <server>\IIS_USRS on C:\Windows\Temp

Once that is done, files uploaded and moved will have the correct permissions, and will be served without error.

If you have already uploaded files, and are getting the dreaded broken image issue, then go to /blog/wp-content/uploads and replace/update the permissions to add access for the two user accounts noted above.

Alternatively, move the PHP temporary folder elsewhere.

From the PHP.ini file:


I made the permissions change shown above, adjusted the PHP.ini so that upload_tmp_dir was C:\Temp and applied the permission change to that directory. After a quick web site Stop/Restart (just to be sure), everything worked as expected on my local test instance.

Migrating to WordPress 5.4 from BlogEngine.NET

Lisa and I are probably the last people on the planet to still be using BlogEngine.NET for our blogs. Hey, if it works… don’t upgrade it.

Many other respected folks out there have described their process of moving their blog to WordPress, and I’m indebted to them. In this post, I’ll add my notes on the whole experience. Maybe someone out there will find it interesting and helpful.


Here’s the basic process:

  • Export your posts from BlogEngine.NET admin as BlogML
  • Save your image and attachment files
  • Create a new (empty) WordPress site
  • upload the image and attachment files to the /wp-content/upload folder
  • Obtain and install the BlogML Importer plugin for WordPress
  • Perform some simple text find-and-replace on the BlogML file
  • Tools->Import the BlogML file

In Practice

I hit some potholes… The image link replacements were all straight-forward but required some planning on how the sites were going to be switched. I definitely wanted to keep the same name of the blog site directory (I think it is no secret that it was and is “morethanfour”.)

So the change is minimal – replacing the BlogEngine.NET-specific “/image.axd?picture=” hrefs with “/wp-content/uploads/” path.

It was more complicated than that due to my first importing into a local web root and reviewing the format of the imported posts, and fixing a few strange glitches (due to non-breaking spaces).

Once I was comfortable with the replacements and the final appearance of the imported posts, it was time to deploy to production. For me, this involved the following steps:

  • remove the ASP.NET application on the existing BlogEngine.NET site
  • rename the blog root from “morethanfour” to “old-blog-backup”
  • re-create the “morethanfour” directory
  • upload the WordPress 5.4 install files
  • create the associated blog-specific MySQL database and user
  • ensure that the server was running PHP 5.6 (or later, was not the default!)
  • run the WordPress install process
  • copy the image files (previously saved) into /wp-content/upload
  • copy the blogml-importer plugin into /wp-content/plugins (see below)
  • install/activate the plugin inside the WordPress Administration
  • Go to Tools > Import and run the BlogML Import (which is now available)
  • Follow the prompts

And that is basically it. The final results look great.

Concerning that blogml-importer plugin

The original site with the BlogML Import plugin is no longer available, although other locations have hosted it, including the one I eventually downloaded it from:

The zip archive contains two files, blogml-importer.php and Xpath.class.php, and the second one is not compatible with PHP 5.6 and later. I hacked the Xpath.class.php until I could install the plugin into WordPress without errors.

I have attached my 5.6/7.2 compatible version, zipped, here:

Most of the other potholes aren’t really worth discussing because they were peculiar to differences in PHP version between my hosting provider and my own local (laptop) development site.

This post is not authenticated

Recently I was considering the problem of deep-faked videos and photo-shopped images. The use case I was thinking of was this: Consider a news organization plays an edited clip of a video that appears to show someone saying or doing something that they didn’t do or say.

How to counter this? Perhaps the party in question could release the original, full video and use some mechanism that verifies that it is “official” as opposed to the edited version that would lack such a mechanism.

I believe that the standard technique would be “RSA digital signing” using asymmetric public key cryptography.

User Gilles ‘SO- stop being evil’ on Stack Overflow describes it well:

To use RSA for signing, Alice takes a hash of the message, encrypts the hash using her own private key, and appends the result (this is the signature) to the message. [..] Bob can decrypt the signature using Alice’s public key and see if [his hash of the message] matches. If it does, it must have been encrypted using Alice’s private key, which only she has, so it must have come from Alice.

Giles ‘so stop being evil’ on stack overflow

I also found this article:
A Method for verifying integrity & authenticating digital media

Ted Roche suggests taking a look at Web of Trust, which is interesting.

But perhaps this is all a waste of time. With respect to the news media, we live in a world now where declarations can be made without verification. “Proof” is no longer important. Someone can edit a video or document (whether derived from authentic sources or not) and state whatever the fuck they want to about it, and it will have an impact, potentially damaging, and it won’t matter if there’s an RSA signature associated with it or not.

We need to work on making Proof a thing.

Detecting overlapping date ranges

Consider an Event table, with columns A and B defining the start and end of the period of time over which the event occurred.
Consider also a random period of time defined from S to E.
Now imagine that you want to select all event rows that overlap that specific period of time.

By overlap, we mean that case 1,2,4, and 6 should be included, but 3 and 5 should not:


The first solution that might occur to us is this one:

select * from Event
where B between S and E or A between S and E

At first glance it looks clear and elegant, but unfortunately it doesn’t handle case #6.
Somewhat less intuitive but still elegant and also complete is:

select * from Event
where B >= S and A <= E

AES Encryption between Informatica and PostgreSQL

We encountered a situation where encrypted data exported from Informatica could not be decrypted by PostgreSQL, once we’d loaded it into a table.

If you found this page looking for a solution, save your time. I don’t have a solution, I just wanted to make some notes.

How does Informatica encrypt data?

According to this knowledgebase article:

AES_DECRYPT needs binary data as input. Hence when we first encrypt the data using the AES_ENCRYPT function, the data transformed by this function has to be encoded in base64 format. This transformed data can then be used as an input to the AES_DECRYPT function.

In other words:

CIPHERTEXT = Base64_Encode( AES_Encrypt( PLAINTTEXT ))


PLAINTEXT = AES_Decrypt( Base64_Decode( CIPHERTEXT ))

According to this thread:

[informatica’s] AES_ENCRYPT function uses the combination as follows which is expressed in terms of functions in DBMS_CRYPTO package of Oracle: DBMS_CRYPTO.ENCRYPT_AES128 + DBMS_CRYPTO.CHAIN_CBC + DBMS_CRYPTO.PAD_ZERO

From Oracle’s documentation, we get:

DBMS_CRYPTO.ENCRYPT_AES128 Advanced Encryption Standard. Block cipher. Uses 128-bit key size.
DBMS_CRYPTO.CHAIN_CBC Cipher Block Chaining. Plaintext is XORed with the previous ciphertext block before it is encrypted.
DBMS_CRYPTO.PAD_ZERO Provides padding consisting of zeroes

So far, so good.

Ensure the pgcrypto extension is installed in PostgreSQL:

In psql:

=> \dx
hstore | 1.4 | public | data type for storing sets of (key, value) pairs
plpgsql | 1.0 | pg_catalog | PL/pgSQL procedural language

=> create extension if not exists pgcrypto;

=> \dx
hstore | 1.4 | public | data type for storing sets of (key, value) pairs
pgcrypto | 1.3 | public | cryptographic functions
plpgsql | 1.0 | pg_catalog | PL/pgSQL procedural language

Looking at the docs for the raw base functions in pgcrypto, it suggests that the default settings for encrypt/descrypt will use MODE=CBC and PADDING=PKCS (any length) which suggests zero padding but that’s a guess. So I think it should match Informatica, at least according to the docs.

And yet, using the following test code yields an error:

=> select pgp_sym_decrypt( decode('BI830ZHd2kimJTfMD8E07mSTa8HDUbU/lbKFUDl73FrqI6uwAH7oCwPRGjxUkUZw','base64'),
'cipher-algo=aes128' );

ERROR: Wrong key or corrupt data

In this example, I’ve replaced the key text with a random string value – we didn’t actually use that value.

I am pretty confident that the encryption key is correct; less confident that the cipher text is not corrupt, but in simple tests where I DO have confidence, we still get the same error. Where does this leave us? With data we can’t decrypt, unless we can figure out the difference.

Of course, we can encrypt and decrypt values successfully if we stay in the DB domain and use only the PostgreSQL pgcrypto API to perform the encryption. It’s only data coming from Informatica that is giving us trouble.

Assuming the process that is extracting data from Informatica is not corrupting the data, it has to be some difference between the two encryption algorithms.

I’ll continue to research this and if we find a solution, update this post, of course.

Bi-directional Host-only networking with Virtualbox

I thought I already had a post about this, but I can’t find it, so where we go again.

It has been a while since I set up a guest OS and configured it for networking between Host and Guest. Of course, we also want the Guest to be able to see the Internet…


  • Host OS : Windows 10
  • Guest OS: Linux Mint

Important Configuration Steps:

  1. The Host Virtualbox need host-only networking enabled
  2. The Guest OS needs a second network adaptor enabled, for host-only networking
  3. The Guest OS needs MANUAL IP configuration
  4. The Host OS needs a Firewall adjustment

1. Enable Host-Only networking in Virtualbox

Under Global Tools, or File > Host Networking Manager, or Ctrl-W:


I use the default base address range of 192.168.56.x and the host IP of .1.

I also set up the DHCP server to dispatch addresses in the 101-254 range.

2. Add a second adaptor to the Guest OS

By default the network adaptor in the Guest is NAT. We want to leave this one unchanged, and click on the Adapter 2 tab:


Enable the adapter and select “Host-only adapter”.

3. Manually configure the Guest OS IP settings on the new adaptor

At this point we should be able to ping the host:

colin@golem:~$ ping
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=128 time=0.254 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=128 time=0.762 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=128 time=0.655 ms
--- ping statistics ---
3 packets transmitted, 3 received, 0% packet loss, time 2047ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 0.254/0.557/0.762/0.218 ms

And, indeed we can. Even though the network will be available, the adaptor will probably have obtained an IP from the DHCP server, e.g.

Go to the Network Connections dialog and edit the settings on the second network connection. (I usually rename my Ethernet connections so as to clearly identify which is WAN and which is LAN):


For the “Host Network” adaptor, under IPV4 Settings, configure a manual static IP address.

I use because it is easy to remember.


At this point, you may need to restart the networking subsystem to respect your changes. I usually just log out and re-login to the Guest desktop at this point.

Check the IP settings using ifconfig :

colin@golem:~$ ifconfig
enp0s3: flags=4163<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,MULTICAST> mtu 1500
inet netmask broadcast

enp0s8: flags=4163<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,MULTICAST> mtu 1500
inet netmask broadcast

Good, looks like it is respecting the static IP we want.

At this point, in the Host OS, try pinging It might work fine… in which case you can stop here. But if you encounter problems communicating with the Guest, you may need to relax the Host firewall:

4. Adjust the Host’s firewall

Seeing as this network only exists virtually on my computer, I want to take the simple way out and just tell my host firewall to get out of the way of this specific network.

In Windows 10, bring up the Windows Defender Firewall and select “Advanced Settings” from the left panel.


Select “Windows Defender Firewall Properties”

Select Private Profile and Public Profile tabs, and select “Customize”

Uncheck “VirtualBox Host-Only Network”

At this point, you should be able to communicate between Host and Guest in either direction, using any protocol you want.

Using recursive Common Table Expressions to generate lists

Say we want create a generated list of values – sequential dates, for example – as a set of rows. We can do this using recursive common table expressions.

Here’s an example of a common table expression to generate a set of dates:

with dates as
select date '2012-01-01' as DATE_VALUE from dual
union all
select date '2012-01-02' as DATE_VALUE from dual
union all
select date '2012-01-03' as DATE_VALUE from dual
select * from dates;

Using this technique, we could create a set of rows with sequential date values… but it is not very flexible. Ideally, we want a technique that expresses the intent algorithmically.

In 11g R2 and later, we can use a reference to the outer table recursively from inside the definition! This sounds crazy but it works:

with dates as
select date '2012-01-01' as DATE_VALUE from dual
union all
select d.DATE_VALUE + interval '1' day as DATE_VALUE
from dates d
where d.DATE_VALUE < date '2013-01-01'
select * from dates;

In this example, we are UNIONING the first row with a sub-select against itself, adding a new row that increments the date value by 1.

The first time I tried this technique, I got the following error:

ORA-32039: recursive WITH clause must have column alias list

Some research on the web gave me a page that explained what the problem was. The error message is actually very clear: we need to add a list of columns at the top of the WITH <alias> clause:

with dates ( DATE_VALUE ) as
select date '2012-01-01' as DATE_VALUE from dual
union all
select d.DATE_VALUE + interval '1' day as DATE_VALUE
from dates d
where d.DATE_VALUE < date '2013-01-01'
select * from dates;

And now, it just works:


Aside: Here’s how to do the same query in PostgreSQL:

with recursive dates ( DATE_VALUE ) as
select date '2012-01-01' as DATE_VALUE
union all
select cast(d.DATE_VALUE + interval '1' day as date) as DATE_VALUE
from dates d
where d.DATE_VALUE < date '2013-01-01'
select * from dates;

The nice thing about this technique is that we can control the end date, and the increment size, by variables:

define _increment = '5';
define _start = date '2012-01-01';
define _end = date '2012-02-01';

with dates ( DATE_VALUE ) as
select &_start as DATE_VALUE from dual
union all
select d.DATE_VALUE + interval '&_increment' day as DATE_VALUE
from dates d
where d.DATE_VALUE < &_end
select * from dates;

This gives us a list of dates 5 days apart.

Using this technique in a PL/SQL block

If you’re in a PL/SQL block, trying to generate a list dynamically based on parameter values, the code will need to look slightly different:

p_start_time date;
p_interval_days integer;
p_end_date date;
l_interval interval day to second;
l_interval := numtodsinterval( p_interval_days, 'day' );
insert into My_List_Of_Dates
dates ( DATE_VALUE ) as
p_start_time as DATE_VALUE
from dual
union all
DATE_VALUE + l_interval as DATE_VALUE
from dates d
where d.END_TIME < p_end_date
select DATE_VALUE from dates;

New Gig, New Tooling

I’ve just started a new full-time gig, and it involves several technologies for which I don’t have in-depth experience, including:

  • PostgreSQL & MySQL
  • Python 3

I’m not too worried. Once you’ve had sufficient experience with two varieties of RDBMS (e.g. SQL Server and Oracle) then becoming capable in a third one isn’t too hard. You kind of know where the gaps are going to be, and how to find out the answers rapidly.

I want to give a huge shout-out to a tool called dBeaver. A colleague at the new gig turned me on to it. It’s an RDBMS-agnostic, cross-platform database IDE based on the Eclipse framework.

Holy crap, how had I not heard of this before. It’s awesome. It just works. I don’t miss PL/SQL Developer or Management Studio at all. (At least, not yet.) The community edition is free, but it is worth supporting with a license.

Speaking of “community editions”, PyCharm CE is a very nice Python IDE with Git integration.

Windows Live Writer, Code Snippet, and embedded styles

I’m a long-time fan of Windows Live Writer, which I can’t link you to because it is no longer available from Microsoft. (Search for Windows Live Essentials 2012 and maybe you’ll find something.)

Thankfully the project was moved into open-source and a variant of it is available today as Open Live Writer. That’s cool – but as of this writing, it does not support plug-ins.

Alas, I rely on a plug-in called “Code Snippet” by Leo Vildosola. So I’m sticking with the original Windows Live Writer for now.

Embittered Styles

Code Snippet is great for posting source code and similar monospace text blocks into the blog page. It also has the default option to emit embedded styles into the generated HTML code. This makes for a kind of nasty lowest-common denominator format, like this:

<pre id="codeSnippet" style="border-top-style: none; font-size: 8pt; overflow: visible; 
border-left-style: none; font-family: 'Courier New', courier, monospace; width: 100%;
border-bottom-style: none; color: black; padding-bottom: 0px; direction: ltr;
text-align: left; padding-top: 0px; border-right-style: none; padding-left: 0px;
margin: 0em; line-height: 12pt; padding-right: 0px; background-color: #f4f4f4">

If you’re not paying attention, you can end up with a lot of blog posts with these “embittered” styles and end up with serviceable but not necessarily attractive text blocks. (raises hand).

This option can be switched off when authoring new blog posts. See that “Embed Styles” check-button in the UI?

imageIf you un-select that option, you get this generated instead:

<pre id="codeSnippet" class="csharpcode">This is a test without embedded styling</pre>

That’s quite a difference.

Now we get a CLASS attribute instead of the embedded styles, so if we want to improve upon the basic default <pre> tag style, we’ll obviously need to add a style to our CSS.

Note: no matter what language/syntax you choose in Code Snippet’s Language dropdown list, the emitted CLASS value will always be “csharpcode”. This could be confusing because you might not be pasting C# code into the snippet, but the CSS class doesn’t appear to be related.


OK, we can definitely live with this, and add a style directive to our CSS. But what about all those previous blog posts with text blocks with embedded styles?

This is !important

Up until today I always thought that embedded styles trumped CSS, but it turns out there is a qualifier you can add to CSS that forces modern web browsers to use the CSS styles preferentially, even for embedded styles.

That qualifier is “!important”.

Now I can beautify my historical blog posts by adding the following to my blog theme’s style.css:

/* Windows Live Writer - Code Snippet - Fix for emitted embedded styles */
#codeSnippet {
background-color: aliceblue !important;
font-family: "Droid Sans Mono", Consolas, courier, monospace !important;


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