Category Archives: blogging

Servers, blogs and freedom

Notice anything different? Yes, my blog has a new theme and a slightly concatenated address, but you probably wouldn’t even realize that since I blog about once per year… No, the real changes are under ze hood!

A couple of weeks ago my little Mini-ITX based computer in my closet that acts as my file and web server decided that it didn’t want to start anymore. I panicked at first because I had not performed a full data backup in ages, but thankfully it turned out that the hard drive — the Mother modem if you will — was still working perfectly, so I was able to plug it into another old computer I had lying around.

Young FrankensteinOne really cool thing about Ubuntu Server (and indeed Linux in general) is that it happily continues to run almost regardless of what hardware change around it. Taking out the Mother modem and plugging it into another computer is a bit like taking out the brain of a human and planting it into another body. My new temporary server continued to tick without even the slightest hiccup (albeit way slower on this charmingly clunky 256 MB RAM monster).

With the data backup taken care of, I decided that I’m done tinkering with my own server for now. It’s too much hassle and the risks are too high that if something breaks, you have to spend a considerable amount of time trying to get things back up again. For my modest purposes (a file server for music and movies, and a web server for my blog) it simply wasn’t worth paying for new hardware and going through the trouble of restoring it. Instead, I decided to tackle my two small needs separately:

  1. The blog — I needed a place to host my blog.
  2. The files — I needed a way to access my movies and music on my network to use in XBMC hooked up to my home cinema.

1. The blog

For the blog, I could either host it for free at e.g. wordpress.com, or I could pay a service provider to host my own custom install for me. The former would be free, but the latter would give me more flexibility. I decided on something in between: I’m using wordpress.com to host the blog for free, but I’m paying them to connect my old domain djst.org to it. This is why the address of this blog had to change from djst.org/blog to simply djst.org, because the domain hosts nothing but the blog now. Old permalinks from djst.org/blog/* magically continues to work though — except specifically djst.org/blog, which randomly shows an old blog post from 2006 about a new kitchen table (oh the memories!).

One thing that really impressed me with WordPress is its export and import feature. After getting my Frankenstein server up and running again, I was able to export all posts, pages, comments and categories into one single xml file and then I could just create a blog on wordpress.com and import that file on there. Within a minute, all of my posts and their related tags and comments were living in a new home.

But what about all the uploaded images that go along with the posts? Well, it turns out that the import script automatically fetches all references files in blog posts and uploads them to the new blog location too (though I had to make sure that the old blog was publicly accessible for it to work, which took me a couple of import attempts to get right).

Another thing that impressed me was wordpress.com’s forum support. I had a couple of questions there and one volunteer named tandava108 always provided answers within the hour. Getting a quick response when you’re having a problem or a question is such an important aspect of customer support, so wordpress.com should count themselves lucky to have someone like tandava108 in their forums (just like we are really lucky to have awesome superheroes like cor-el, madperson and jscher2000 in the SUMO forum).

My temporary Frankenstein server with its guts exposed.

2. The files

This one was easy — all I had to do was to plug in an external hard drive to the USB port of my router and voilĂ , I had wireless access to music and movies again. If you’re curious, I’m using a Netgear WNDR3700v2 router and the configuration process was very straightforward. I’m not too happy about that router for other reasons, btw, but that’s another story.

I must say that it’s a relief to not have a server to worry about anymore. My nerd/hack level has gradually decreased over the years, but it wasn’t until the server broke down that I realized just how little I needed one these days. It feels great to know that I don’t have to worry ever again about my blog getting lost due to a server meltdown.

djst's nest, a microblog?

I’m thinking of turning this blog into a microblog. What that actually means is simply that I would write more often on the blog without feeling that every blog post needs to be substantial, clever, and proof-read.

I’ve found that I blog much less nowadays and the main reason for it is a lack of time — it’s so much simpler to just post a Facebook status update, or tweet. But at the same time, I often feel that I could write at least a few sentences about any given topic, which immediately makes the 140 character limit somewhat… limiting.

In the Mozilla world, I recently worked in the Paris office for a week, interviewed some really strong candidates for the Support Community Manager role, hung out with my Mozilla community friends at FOSDEM 2010, and sang songs about nukeador — all of which are topics worthy of (micro)blog posts on their own.

So, rather than letting this blog slowly die, I will start to write briefer blog posts and get them out more frequently. Consider this my Sunday morning promise (whatever that means).

Server is up again!

I finally took the time to investigate what was wrong with my server’s inability to get an IP address. It turns out that I had set it to static IP, but the specified IP was out of range of the router’s allowed IP addresses (something I thought only applied to its DHCP server).

I actually tried to extend the DHCP IP range to include it and rebooted it, which still didn’t solve the problem. However, I didn’t try to power it down completely, so maybe that was what made it “just work” when I attempted to fix it today. Maybe I just need to be a little more like mrz.

Anyway, here I am again, blogging world! I have lots to blog about, so please check back for more.

Captcha Disabled

Many visitors commenting in this blog have mentioned that the captcha plugin I’m using is unreliable so I’ve decided to disable it for now. Does anyone know of a working solution? Not using spam protection at all is not an option.

New Blog Design (Again) Coming Up

While I liked the previous design created from the flower photo I took with my new camera, it was a bit too dull, blurry and noisy. I’d rather have a theme with sharper edges and a not as integrated title image to go with it. This time around, I’ve got help from a professional who will help me creating the new blog theme. I even get to say what I like and not like about the drafts! Thanks Curtis for helping me with this!

Comment spam protection (and WordPress theme problems)

I installed a WordPress plugin called SecureImage that helps protecting against spam by forcing commenters to enter some random numbers and letters, making it harder for spammers to get through. The plugin seems to work fine, but for some reason it won’t work with my customized theme. It works for the first comment, then when the comment poster is recognized, the graphics with the random characters doesn’t appear and you get an error when trying to post. Until I’ve found the reason for this misbehavior, I’ve switched back to the default WordPress theme.