Maintaining my Internet presence

Yesterday I wrote about my plans to transition this site over to gonyea.com in the near future. Yet an event today reminded me about something I have been thinking off and on about for the past few months. Why should I run my site on my own server?

This afternoon I was doing my usual after work routine online, catching up on my e-mail, RSS feeds, and Twitter. I happen to go to my site ready to jot down a few ideas for a blog post. Eventually my web browser times out connecting to this site. I try my other sites on this server, nothing happens.

I groan, as I know immediately what the problem is. My server (running Ubuntu 9.04), despite several rebuilds and reconfigurations, will randomly spike to 100% CPU usage and become completely unresponsive. Cannot SSH into it, cannot even serial console into it. I have to do a hard shutdown of the server then power it back on, hoping that I did not corrupt the database in the process. Who knows how long the server was down, could have been hours.

This gets me thinking. Is there really a need for me to run the latest WordPress on my own server? Do I have the time and energy to keep this server secure, up-to-date, and with as close to 100% uptime as possible? Do I really want to troubleshoot obscure issues on an OS I know very little about?

My gut says I want the power of WordPress so I can eventually unveil my awesome web site that I keep promising for years, that this server is a great learning experience for not only hosting my own site, but making sure everything just plain works.

My head tells me that I have been promising that awesome web site since I registered , which was 8 freaking years ago. Point the DNS records to Tumblr for and begin fresh there, with a simple blogging platform that does the few things I have ever done with this site. Let Tumblr worry about uptime, security, and providing an awesome site for me. Maybe it will make me write more.

As I ponder this, I did some tweaks to my Apache installation since I did find some log entries that suggest the server ran out of memory. Let’s see if this fixes the problem. If not, I may press the kill switch on self hosting WordPress.

Updates to the blog

A few updates to my blog:

  • I am now using WordPress 3.0 on this blog.
  • I have switched to using the new default theme in WordPress 3.0.
  • Given the lack of discussion on almost all of my posts and the amount of comment spam on old posts I see despite several comment spam plugins, I have decided to experiment with turning off all comments on posts older than 30 days. I am interested in seeing how this turns out.

Netflix on PS3 a sign of things to come

Over the weekend my wife and I decided to start our Netflix subscription again. During the spring, summer, and fall we are just too busy to watch movies and much TV, outside of Red Sox games that are on practically every night. We usually just place a hold on our Netflix subscription until winter comes, when the bad weather forces us to stay inside and we have lots of time for movies, TV shows, etc.

Yesterday we received our Netflix streaming disc for my PS3 and a DVD. The DVD remains in its envelope, unopened, thanks to how fantastic the Netflix streaming works on the PS3.

Last night my wife and I watched the first 6 episodes of The Office over the Internet, in HD, on my PS3 for just our $8.99 Netflix subscription. The quality was stunning for internet streaming and it started up within a minute after some quick buffering. In fact, I couldn’t tell the difference between watching a HD episode of the office streaming or on our regular Comcast HD channels. It seriously looked like a HD show, no pauses for buffering, no moments of digital blocks appearing on the screen, nothing.

I am seriously impressed and love the direction Netflix is going with Internet streaming. I hope this means in the near future I can get my live sports in HD via streaming of my local teams. MLB.TV works, but still has blackout restrictions so I can’t watch the Red Sox via streaming. Fix that and I cancel cable TV.

Get my name right

I could understand back in the day having some odd limit of the number of first characters that will be printed and saved on some old computer systems. This is weeks away from 2010 though and I am still seeing my name occasionally cut off at 10 characters.

My full legal first name is Christopher, which I really only use on official documents, shopping orders, etc. Everyone knows me by Chris though. Yet there is at least two companies I have dealt with in the past several years who think my name is Christophe due to a 10-character limit on first names in their computer system.

This can either be an annoyance in the case of BJ’s Wholesale Club, who thinks a Christophe should renew his membership today. Or it was downright aggravating when for an entire Honeymoon cruise back in 2007 the crew made up of foreigners who obviously didn’t know Christophe was really Christopher, called me Christophe the entire cruise. At that point, 25 odd years of my natural reaction to being known by Chris and Christopher weren’t going to change for 1 week.

This is a call to all the companies out there who want to do business with me. Get my name right. Fix your system’s limitations so I am not Christophe. It is the 21st century and almost 2010. I am not the only person with this issue.

Google Chrome beta for the Mac

Right now as I write this blog post, I am using the new Google Chrome beta for the Mac. It doesn’t have extensions yet, is buggy at times, and I’m not completely sold on some of its UI choices. Yet it is a serious contender for winning the majority of my web browsing time.

I have been a user of Mozilla Firefox since the days of Phoenix 0.1 (September 2002) and a user of Mozilla web browsers in general since version M14 way back in March 2000. Which basically means, I haven’t used a Microsoft web browser outside of a random web site and Windows Update since probably early 2000. It also means I haven’t deviated from the Mozilla way of browsing the web since the year 2000.

For nearly 10 years, we were told that Mozilla had to go with this hugely complex UI system that isn’t native so it could realistically get a browser out the door that works on any Operating System with these fancy extensions working as well. It is a remarkable achievement that they have pulled this off.  Then there is the fact a web page can bring down the browser. Yes session restore can fix the damage somewhat, but it is no substitute for your web browser crashing and the interrupting of your work flow.

Now I am using what is the first really modern web browser to come out since Firefox (sorry Safari, you may have an awesome rendering engine, but are way too simple and stubborn). Each tab has its own process and if it crashes, so what, my other tabs won’t go down either. This thing is blazing fast on the Mac, faster than Firefox could dream about with its non-native code. It has a UI that actually fits with the Mac and doesn’t look big/bloated (yes I am looking at you Firefox). It’s rendering engine is just as awesome as Safari’s since shares WebKit. Oh and it still manages to have extensions that work across all platforms (soon for the Mac, but I can hold on).

I know the Mozilla project is working hard on Firefox and hopefully it will improve, especially on the Mac. Until then, I think Chrome is calling my name.

Recovering and getting back into the flow

It has been an interesting past month or so for me.

I had fought what had felt like a cold for about two weeks that kept getting slowly worse. Everyone thought it was a cold and said there was no use going to the doctor, since that is what he would tell me too. Heck, it felt like a cold. Outside of the chills (but oddly no fever) the first few days, I just coughed often and occasionally strained my voice from talking too much (kind of hard not to do when your job includes phone support). The nights were the worst, I got very little sleep and coughed despite taking NyQuil.

Thanksgiving weekend, two weeks into this “cold” I went up to my parents house to visit them, hoping a little R&R with home cooked meals would do me some good. By Sunday my father got sick of hearing me cough and we thought maybe this was something more than a cold. A quick trip to the doctor’s office and I discovered I actually had walking pneumonia, which shocked us all. I had no fever, was not tired, and outside of the first couple of days, no chills, just this cough.

Of course things weren’t easy. The doctor went with a lower dose of antibiotics hoping that would clear up everything, but the way my luck was going, that wasn’t the case. I was doing better for about three days before my recovery stalled and started to backtrack.

Another trip the doctor, stronger antibiotics, and an inhaler prescribed, four days straight at home and I feel a lot better. Still have a cough and congestion, which will last another week or two according to the doctor, but the pneumonia is much reduced in my lung and is under control.

It is quite amazing what doesn’t get done when I am sick. My wife was awesome helping out the best she could, but everything from minor repairs to cleaning out the closet and shed to even some computer work that I had wanted to finish never happened. I did not even do my Christmas consumer duty, I didn’t start my Christmas shopping until three days ago.

Lesson learned about how the cough I had wasn’t normal and I should have gone to the doctor much sooner. If I had, I probably would have saved a lot of time, money, and frustration on my part. My awesome employer was understanding, my awesome wife was just plain awesome, and I am finally getting better.

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to wish everyone a happy thanksgiving. I have been extremely busy lately and haven’t been able to write much on here, but hopefully over the winter I can give this blog some much needed love.

GeoCities shutting down today

For many of us who first started using the World Wide Web back in the day (around 1995-1996), our first web site was often hosted on GeoCities (for more information, read the Wikipedia entry on GeoCities) It was truly a novel concept back then and everyone took full advantage of having their own web sites with blinking text and MIDI files everywhere. That made me quite sad to learn that GeoCities is closing its doors today.

archive.org has a copy of my first web site. It was called From The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah and was a fan site by a young 14-year-old Nirvana fan. Looks like it was created in the Fall of 1996 judging by the news page.

Thanks to archive.org it should be available permanently through the link above. I have also archived it myself. Not sure if I am going to throw the HTML files onto a subdomain somewhere on my site, but it brings back some good memories. R.I.P. GeoCities.