Machine Learning for a Better Search

April 30, 2018 9:56pm
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I wanted to expand more on the comment I made earlier on my micro-blog about how to build a better search function because the more that I think about it, the more I believe that this addresses one of the Internet’s biggest problems right now.

We went from limited information before the digital age to endless information a few decades in, but now what we really need to focus on is putting the right information in front of people.

Or, as my micro example cited – it should be easier to find the source of a topic than it is to find commentary about that topic.

And as if grading your sources wasn’t difficult enough, I’m going to throw one more curveball into the mix – you can’t blacklist an article based on its publisher, with my thought process here being simply that sure, 95% of what places like Fox News and Breitbart post is absolute garbage, but…

  1. We want everyone to use and rely on this new search method and people aren’t as likely to jump onboard if their favorite sources, damned as they may be, are automatically excluded from the mix.
  2. But more importantly, even if 95% of what someone writers is pure drivel, we want to encourage that remaining 5% to rise above the rest because that’s how you change opinions.

Now most of this is well beyond my level of expertise, but I know that there are methods in use today to determine “the quality” of a body of text based on sentence structure, vocabulary, etc… The question is, how can we expand on that logic to categorize stories based both on quality as well as what they bring to the table. Because hey, there’s a lot of opinion on the Internet and I certainly don’t want to discount that – I’m just saying that when somebody searches for a topic, they should be presented with facts first and editorial second.

It gets even trickier when you don’t have a fairly clean example like the one I used – even with regards to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, there were multiple videos that contained the full speeches from the dinner … some were censored, some were from different outlets … but what about when it’s not even that cut and dry?

A video of President Trump saying XYZ would be the most accurate source, but if instead you have news reports sharing what it was that he said – and possibly some with more/less context or fact correction in their articles – then that becomes very subjective to try and decide which one did the best job of reporting XYZ that then deserves to be at the top of the search results.

I kind of have a love/hate relationship with Google these days because I know that they’re trying to filter out the literally billions of pages on the Internet, and they do say that they look at things like user experience and reblogging to help rank their results, but at the same time I still see those hideous, clickbait ads from Taboola and Outbrain on some of the biggest websites seemingly without penalty.

How does a search engine remain independent while trying to sort relevancy as well as fact from fiction, alongside people constantly working to game the system to get their garbage to float to the top to make the ad bucks???

Maybe it’s time to learn a thing or two about machine learning and get to work on this… 😉

Whatever happened to RSS readers???

April 23, 2018 9:19pm
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I guess they just went away with the rise of social media and apps and notifications, though for what it’s worth I always found that a bit silly because I don’t want a dedicated app on my phone for every single website that I visit!

…not to mention, what about the ones that don’t have apps … like mine? 😯

In continuing with my hiatus from social media, this has been somewhat of a challenge for me because there are definitely sites that I still want to keep up with, but I might not necessarily want the rest of the chatter of following them on social media, and not for nothing but algorithmic sorting makes it harder and harder to see stuff that I actually want to see, anyways!

So I stumbled back across this feature built into WordPress.com for subscribing to blogs. It was originally designed specifically for blogs hosted on WP.com, but was eventually extended to all WordPress blogs via Jetpack and now it looks like you can follow just about any site with an RSS feed because I’ve setup follows with blogs on Blogger and Typepad, too!

It’ll be interesting to see if it scales out well if I want to add a couple dozen more sites to be able to include news outlets and whatnot in addition to my writer friends and folks I’ve come to admire online, but for now it’s honestly just nice to get a list of posts in the order that they were actually published as opposed to the order in which an algorithm thinks I want to read them … with plenty of targeted ads interspersed, no less!

Oops – no HTTP/2 today…

April 23, 2018 4:08am
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Note to Self: DON’T MAKE SERVER CHANGES WITHOUT WRITING DOWN WHAT YOU’RE CHANGING FIRST!!!!!

So … about 11 hours ago, I thought that I’d try to upgrade my web server to use HTTP/2.

It sounded like a great idea after reading this article from Yoast, so I spun up Easy Apache and found the mod_http2 option. It mentioned that I needed to switch from one MPM to another, but I didn’t really think much of it.

To make matters worse, I also used the same time to uncheck a few random Apache and PHP modules that I didn’t think I needed.

As soon as I restarted Apache, sites already started looking hosed. 

Some wouldn’t even render their CSS, others were missing random images. But I didn’t know enough about HTTP/2 yet to realize whether I had actually screwed something up or if I just needed to make some modifications to WordPress to get everything working correctly.

At one point I thought that maybe all I needed was this HTTP/2 Server Push plugin, as I started to understand that HTTP/2 handles requests a lot faster, so was it possible that the browser was just getting the CSS file and other images too late and didn’t know what to do with them?

No, not really.

I also dug deep into caching issues, which is always a mess because I run Varnish and some of my sites use W3 Total Cache, though it’s currently disabled on my multisite install due to weird config issues. I also cleared my own browser cache and tried other browsers, but no luck.

Eventually I started to dig into the whole some images loading but others weren’t thread, and even more peculiar – I run three WordPress installs on this server … two multisites and one standalone, and only my big multisite install had issues!

This got me thinking back to some of the permissions issues I’ve had with Apache and PHP while trying to get APC working (quick summary – APC is supposed to be wicked fast, but won’t run under the SuPHP handler, only DSO … which handles permissions for running Apache different than SuPHP). What was weird was that images I had uploaded recently were missing, but the older images were fine … and note that all of the files were still present on the file system itself.

I gradually conceded that I needed to give up on HTTP/2 for now and roll back to what I had before, though this was a giant pain because I’d run Easy Apache so many times that something got corrupted in the config and I ended up making the biggest changes using YUM via SSH.

I got moved back from mod_mpm_event and mod_http2 over to mod_mpm_prefork, though that didn’t seem to make a difference.

Then on a whim I reinstalled mod_ruid2 because of this helpful explanation – Run all httpd process under user’s access right.

AND BAM – MY SITES ALL STARTED RELOADING PERFECTLY AGAIN LIKE MAGIC!!!

Well, almost like magic. I still had a lot of plugins to reactivate and other troubleshooting steps that I’d taken to reverse, but now … as far as I can tell … my WordPress network is back to the way it was 11 hours ago before I decided to try and setup HTTP/2 “on a whim!”

Clearly I need to do a lot more research into it, and also probably spin up a test site or something, before I start monkeying with that hassle all over again. 😛

Made in China

April 13, 2018 8:14pm
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The last couple of days I’ve been kind of fascinated by videos of people buying things in the gigantic, multi-story super malls in China. It started from revisiting this video of a guy who built his own iPhone from parts that he bought in Shenzhen!

Of course, it’s not so much about the economics, but more so just one of those things because he could that’s impressive to me. I’ve built plenty of my own computers in my days, but small enough to fit in your pocket is a whole new ballgame that I don’t think my own soldering ability is up for the task! 😉

But from there I started watching these videos from another guy shopping the same market – primarily for counterfeit goods because apparently they’re everywhere…

Although he’s shopping mostly for clothes instead of electronics, which I don’t really care about, it intrigues me nonetheless for so many reasons…

  • Despite everyone selling knockoffs of major brands, the brands themselves don’t really mean much in China simply because counterfeiting is so widespread that everyone knows that what everybody else is wearing is fake.
  • The price flexibility is ridiculous – to start at something like 4,000 Chinese Yen ($632 USD) and work your way down to 150 YEN ($24) … it’s always interesting to me to see where the margin that products sell for falls, but it’s particularly apparent when you have products here that they’re trying to sell for name brand prices that realistically cost pennies to make.
  • …or do they? Consider that how a lot of counterfeiting of clothing takes place is simply by the factory making it to leak the plans, or for all we know it could be happening in the exact same factory! If it looks just like the original, and it’s made in the same place as the original, how fake is it?
  • And of course, salesmanship continues to astound me because you have to be so persistent to do that kind of thing amid eye rolls and people walking away. It’s always surprised me when we go on a cruise and you have those kinds of sellers in Caribbean countries – no matter how good of a deal you think you’re getting, they’re no doubt still making money off of you.

It makes me wonder the extent of this same kind of counterfeiting in the electronics area – some things like full devices and iPhone backs make sense, but looking at the parts the guy bought in the first video, it begs the question of how many were counterfeits and how many were parts out of recycled phones and whatnot. I mean, I know that it exists to some extent – probably quite a bit, considering that there are entire counterfeit Apple stores that pop up around China, but to what level do they take it?

And then the ethical question to end on – when the west exploits so much of their cheap labor to make these devices and shoes and purses, can you really blame them for finding a way to get a leg up in this commerce game when otherwise their numbers are being bought and sold for next to nothing???

Long before Facebook and Twitter, building my own websites, and even a graphical interface to the Internet in general … there was a Host: prompt.

This is what we saw when we “got online” … at least after fighting for dial-up access lines at the local library that would get snapped up like hotcakes the moment kids started getting out of school. Of course, it probably didn’t help that you had kids like me who would literally connect for hours and hours at a time, whether I was chatting with strangers from around the state or exploring whatever random bits of information gopher found for me or even hacking and slashing my way through MUDs before World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs ever became a thing!

One of the very first sites that I ever came across while surfing this strange, new text-based world was a BBS-like community online called Grex. Living in the middle of nowhere, we didn’t really have much for BBSes because everything would’ve been long-distance, so aside from a single friend’s BBS that his parents let him run out of their lake house when they weren’t there to need the line, Grex was really the first multi-user community I found where multiple users could actually be online at the same time!

In addition to just random chat rooms that would fill with other high school and college kids, as well as the local computer club enthusiasts that ran the place, I eventually also got involved with their forums (which they called conferences). I settled upon a group that talked about pretty much everything that a 14 year-old me was interested in … video games, RPGs, and a little Magic: The Gathering, and that’s where I would do my socializing after school while other kids were out doing whatever normal kids did back in 1994…

It kind of impresses me that some 23 years later, Grex is actually still out therethough from reading through the conferences it’s a shell of its former self and likely only hasn’t been shuttered simply because it would be too much effort. But you can actually still see all of my old posts either by browsing the links below or even better by searching for one of my usernames.

From what I can tell, I had three different ones during my time there:

  • seveners – my first and most unoriginal username
  • setzer – the suave gambler from Final Fantasy 3 (VI)
  • gandalf – we all know who he is…

Stumbling back across this stuff is enough to make me wonder if it’s worth trying to archive this stuff for posterity somehow, though it’s kind of like a half-step ahead from reading private emails … I guess the idea of it all is really more nostalgic than the actual content!

Still, I could run a quick script against it and stuff them in an archive somewhere to find again in another 20 years and that might be neat, even if only to see if I can still remember what Final Fantasy and Magic and Game Genie codes ever were in the first place. 😉

my computer rigs, 2017 edition

April 19, 2017 1:23am
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It’s been a while since I’ve written a post like this, so between reading back through this random post about backups from three years ago that I stumbled across tonight as well as trying to blog more myself, here we are! 😉

My Primary Computer
Speaking of 2014, I’m still using the MacBook Air that I got for Christmas that year and I still absolutely love it. You couldn’t pay me enough money to switch back to Windows because I still have a laptop with Windows 7 on my desk for work and I hate it with a passion. I can’t tell you how many stupid errors and nonsensical slowdowns that I get with Windows that I just never see with my Mac.

Every once in a blue moon, I will occasionally see my MacBook crash hard, but it’s nothing compared to Windows!

Anyways, I still run Microsoft Office for Word and Excel because I’m just too used to them and I don’t care for the Google or Mac alternatives. Also, I’m a big fan of OneDrive that comes with my Office 365 subscription because it serves so many functions for really no extra cost:

  • Backing up a copy of all of my documents and photos to the cloud.
  • Transferring photos from my iPhone, my wife’s iPhone, and also her iPad to one location for backups via the iOS app.
  • Allowing me to access random files from my desktop via my iPhone.

The subscription I use is something like $69/year via Amazon and gives me 5 licenses, meaning I’ve got plenty for expansion to throw a copy on the wife’s iPad or on a computer of her own if/when we get her one. Add in the 1 TB of OneDrive storage and that’s one less feature I have to pay for elsewhere.

That said, for actual backups I’m also using CrashPlan which is $14/month and is cool because it facilitates backups to the cloud and to other locations; plus they’re one of the only ones I found that have a Linux app, so I’ve got desktop backups both going to CrashPlan as well as to a drive on my home server, and critical files (Plex library data, mostly) from the server goes up to CrashPlan as well.

Lastly, I continue to pay for a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud … mostly for access to Photoshop, which is overkill because I only use it for resizing photos and contrast adjustments, but I figure I owe them for all of the years that I used a pirated copy anyways! Actually, I also use the old Macromedia Fireworks through Creative Cloud, which is technically defunct but still there, as well as Acrobat Pro just because why not – I’m paying for it anyways…

Oh yes, and I just recently in the last week started using LastPass for password management and I feel really stupid for going so long without trying it because it seems to work really well. 😛

My Phone
Real quick – iPhone 6 … notable apps are OneDrive and the WordPress app, which I use more than anything else for working with my sites these days.

I pay Apple the $0.99/month for 50 GB of cloud storage just so that there’s enough room to backup my phone in full because I’ve had to restore a couple of times and iCloud makes the process pretty painless.

My Home Server
This was setup sometime in spring of 2015 on the old hardware I was using for my Windows desktop … a quad-core something or other that still works for streaming Plex around the house as intended, though transcoding can sometimes be an issue. Its only functions are file server and media server, so the box itself was long-since relocated to a closet because hard drives are noisy.

I think there’s something like 28 TB of disk space currently – almost entirely TV and movies – and realistically it’s about ready for another disk, but I’m not sure if the power supply can handle one more!

Eventually I want to replace this with a rack-mount server and separate NAS, but the hardware I’ve picked out is really expensive… 🙁

Operating system is CentOS because it’s what my web host runs and I’m most familiar with it. Internet connection is a 150 Mbps FiOS line from Frontier (was Verizon) that is about the max of what the server hardware can make use of anyways … kinda hoping that by the time I can afford to switch to a rack, their 300 Mbps package will have dropped in price a bit!

My Web Server(s)
I’ve hosted with InterServer up in New Jersey now for something like 15 years … 2002-ish, maybe? … and they’ve been nothing but great to me the entire ride. Right now I technically have two VPSes with them because I’m migrating to a newer OS, but everything is basically CentOS + PHP 7 + MySQL + WordPress and it works just fine for me.

The web stuff almost warrants its own post beyond that, but I’ve been in the process of consolidating my various sites down into a couple of WordPress multisite installations because I’ve found that they’re way easier to manage. The biggest install is the one where this blog and its subdomains (Thing-a-Day, Thoughts) currently live, and so I’m experimenting with ways to speed everything up using Varnish, caching options, etc… before migrating the rest.

I’m also using the Akismet and VaultPress options through WordPress Jetpack for spam filtering, WordPress backups, and malware monitoring on top of the server instance backups that InterServer also does for me.

My domains are all registered through Google Domains because, well, fuck GoDaddy and their convoluted pricing games.

Did I miss anything?! I hope not because I’m honestly really happy with my current setup – it’s fun, but in no way overbearing to maintain and more importantly, it just works so I can spend less time writing and doing what I need to do and less time fighting stupid Windows errors that are only solved by a mysterious reboot and a pair of crossed fingers!

#ServerProgress

December 20, 2016 8:56pm
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Update: Got the scottsevener.com network of sites moved back over to its new home, everything is resolving correctly and not in 48 seconds per page load, and it’s being served through Varnish + Apache … woohoo!

Mind you, I’m not entirely sure that it’s configured correctly because speeds aren’t tons faster, but we’ll work on configuration tweaking another day … I’ve got so much catch-up writing to do now… 😛

Troubleshooting page load speed, part 45…

December 20, 2016 3:31pm
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For the record, I’m painfully aware that the page load times on several of my sites have been, well, unbearable as of late!

Admittedly it’s a problem that I’ve been stalling on for some time now, despite the regular high load emails that I get from my server. A few days ago I got one saying it was as bad as a 5-minute load average of 68.94 … and this is on a VPS with three CPUs and 5 GB of RAM that does honestly pretty light traffic right now, unfortunately…

I had been hoping that most of it could be chalked up to an OS issue because I recently discovered that cPanel had stopped updating on me after reaching a version threshold where the latest would no longer run on 32-bit operating systems, which I was kind of surprised to learn that I had, but again, this VPS was setup back in 2012 so I suppose 32-bit could’ve still been the default four years ago.

The trouble is, there’s really no clean way to upgrade my server from 32- to 64-bit leaving everything intact, so it requires spinning up a new machine and migrating everything over to the newer OS.

Plus, the way I migrated four years ago to VPS from my plain, old shared hosting account of maybe eight years was using cPanel’s built-in account transfer features, which although made it incredibly easy (plus my host did most of the work!), lord only knows how much random garbage has accumulated in all of those files over 8 + 4 years of shared history!

So I had planned on making the migration sort of a clean-up effort along the way and only copy over the guts of each WordPress install, leaving behind whatever caches and other nonsense have accumulated over the years.

And then terrible performance got even worse!!!

When it got to the point where it would literally take upwards of a minute to move from one page on my blog to another, and the admin pages would randomly get disconnected because they couldn’t touch base with the server when it was super overloaded, I knew that it was time to finally tackle this pig. So within a few hours time, I created a second VPS with my awesome web host and gradually let it go through all of the OS and app updates while I staged just one install – my multisite that contains my blog, Thing-a-Day, and about half a dozen other sites – and everything seemed to be going fine…

…until I switched my domain over to the new server…

…upon which usage started blowing up like crazy, again despite little traffic, and even though I started this new VPS a bit smaller than my main server (figuring I could upgrade once I’m ready to stop paying for the old one), it quickly became unusable just like the old machine had been.

From here I started doing some digging into WordPress itself because no longer could I point fingers at the 32-bit OS. I downloaded a couple of plugins – P3 Profiler and Query Monitor – and with the latter’s help, that’s when I noticed that apparently I had a plugin that was just GOING NUTS against MySQL day and night:

To walk you through this fun graph, the orange is your normal SELECT queries that happen when anyone hits a page and WordPress queries its database to build it; the purple, on the other hand, is somehow all INSERT queries, which should really only ever happen when I’m publishing a new post, with a few exceptions.

And those two big valleys in the purple that you see around the 18th and then again between 19 and 20? The first is when I had temporarily pointed my domain over to the new server; the second is keeping the domain back on the old server, but turning off the plugin in question … which apparently solves just about everything!

By the way, the last little purple sliver is me turning the plugin back on so that I can capture some logs to send over to the plugin’s developer to help him look for a fix…

because the thing is, I actually really like this plugin – it’s called WP Word Count and I’ve used it on just about all of my sites for years and years to summarize how much writing I’ve put into my projects. I love it, and if I can spare the time next year, I want to make use of its work to pull together a running total of word counts for all of my work combined so that I can ultimately put together a fun, little dashboard to help motivate me to keep putting words on the screen!

Luckily after finding another multisite user with the same issue, I left a quick comment expressing the same and got a reply from the plugin’s developer later on that evening, so it’s awesome that they’re actively interested in patching this bug because I’ve evaluated a lot of other options and honestly never really found ones that I liked better than theirs.

In the meantime it’ll have to stay off, though, as I continue with my fun server migration. During this whole effort, I’m also trying to really hone in on The Perfect VPS WordPress Configuration, so I’m doing other things like tinkering with Varnish and considering adding Nginx in front of Apache, and then eventually I also want to fine tune W3 Total Cache so that I have one reliable set of caching / compression / minifying rules to use for all of the different sites that I publish … because I figure if I’ve seriously been doing this publishing on the web-thing for over fifteen years now, my pages should be some of the fastest loading around!

Stay tuned for more as I struggle through more issues to come! Now if I can only get this stupid thing to post… 😛

I’m really frustrated with Verizon right now, which is tough because I’m absolutely a huge fan of my FiOS Internet service.

We’ve been customers since 2012 and without a doubt they provide the best Internet service available in the Tampa Bay area. I’ve done the research, I’ve priced out the competition, but between their pricing and the symmetrical download & upload speeds that are pretty much unheard of elsewhere, Verizon FiOS is the best.

So why have I spent the last couple of weeks feeling like an inferior customer over one that they could have sometime in the future???

I’ve talked a lot about upgrading my Internet speed lately – right now I’m at 75 Mbps, but I’ve really been eyeing their 150 Mbps package … it’s just that until recently, it was a bit out of my reach at an extra $50/month. So needless to say, I was really excited when I noticed one day when browsing my upgrade options and saw that they had a new promotion where I could not only go from 75 to 150 Mbps for only an extra $20/month, but they’d also throw in the $200 router upgrade for free!!!

It sounds too good to be true, and apparently it was because a couple of weeks ago when I was finally ready to pull the trigger, the 150 Mbps tier was mysteriously nowhere to be found…

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 7.47.38 PM

My first instinct was understanding enough – there must just be something wrong with Verizon’s website, so I got on the phone and called to place the order manually instead, but the rep who answered my call saw the same thing and was pretty clueless as to why there was a hole in my tiers where the missing 150 Mbps option used to be! It was frustrating to hear her shrug it off, not even giving me an option to escalate the issue for someone else to take another look.

It just wasn’t there, and she was ready to move on to her next call, but that’s not even where the story takes a dark turn.

So I hung up and instead tried reaching out via Twitter, where I got a slightly different, but equally misleading explanation…

This time they told me it was a “technical limitation” and that the tier must simply be “filled up,” so it was no longer available. Here I started to call bullshit because things really weren’t adding up … namely, they had the capacity to upgrade me to 4x or 6.5x my 75 Mbps speed, but not to only 2x my speed! 

And granted, I’m not a fiber technician, but I know a little about how math works – I even gave them the benefit of the doubt here and asked if it was really a technical limitation or if Verizon was artificially limiting availability of certain tiers to encourage the higher sales, but from there the tech just doubled down on that speed is popular, so it fills up and isn’t available anymore.

That didn’t make any sense, but in between waiting for responses I did a little more research and found what I thought was the missing key that would finally make somebody say, “Crap – that’s not right! We need to look into that!!!”

Opening up a separate browser and going to getfios.com, I was able to bring up a brand new order – even at this same address – for a new bundle including 150 Mbps Internet service…

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 11.18.37 PM

Huh???

So clearly there must be something wrong with their ordering system if a new order will offer me that tier, but when logged into my Verizon account it was nowhere to be found!

Well, after waiting a couple of days for a response from the social media team that never came, I decided to send an email to customer service to see what answer they’d be able to come up with for my issue. And at first it seemed promising because I was told that they needed to research it more before they could respond, but eventually they sent me this…

Thank you for choosing Verizon. I have received your email dated 10/29/2015 regarding that  want to know why a new customer would be able to get Fios Internet speeds of 100 and/or 150 Mbps while existing customers can not. I apologize for any frustration or inconvenience this has caused. My name is Karen, and I will be happy to assist you. I will also review the account to make sure you are getting the best value.

Thank ou [sic] for your interest in our products and service.

We apologize for the delay in our response and regret any inconvenience to you.

Unfortunately the connection speeds of 100 and 150 Mbps are not availble [sic] to you.

The decision to only offer the connection speeds of 100 and 150 Mbps was made at corporate management level. Unfortunately it has not been advised to us of why the decision was made to only offer the 100/150 Mbps to new customers and not to existing customers other than that there is technical limitation of upgrading the equipment for existing customers who already have Fios working at their location.

I’m very sorry for the inconvenience and frustration this will cause you and your family.

This after Verizon “added more versatility to its industry-leading service” by apparently adding a 100 Mbps tier in between 75 and 150 Mbps, according to this swell press release boasting about their latest promotions in my specific market a month before I was unable to order them myself!

According to this release, “Verizon is the only communications provider to offer a symmetrical speed tier of 100/100 Mbps, or any Internet services offering the same fast download and upload speeds, in the Florida market” … but only if you’re a brand new customer for them because if you’ve already got an account, your business isn’t worth the effort.

Seriously, how insulting is that?!

Here I am, a long-standing customer and very much a fan of the service, and I want to give Verizon more money, and if I had submitted my order two weeks earlier before this asinine decision was made, I could’ve! But now my extra $20/month isn’t good enough for Verizon. They’d be happy to sell me 300 Mbps service at an additional $110/month, but sorry, the next logical upgrade that makes sense for my account isn’t available because they’ve arbitrarily dog-eared that speed for new customers only.

What sense does that make? My next door neighbor could call and get 150 Mbps service installed tomorrow, or hell, my wife could call and apparently get it installed at our same address … as long as she sets up a new account because this account – the one that’s 3 years old and has earned Verizon upwards of $7,000 over the life of our service – isn’t eligible for an upgrade.

Sorry / not sorry.

You wouldn’t do that with HBO or Cinemax – “I’m sorry, I know that you’ve had an account for 3 years, but we’ve reserved those premium movie channels to entice potential sales from our new customers only. We regret any inconvenience that this causes you…”

Traditionally it’s a poor business practice when one of your loyal customers wants to give you more money and you arbitrarily refuse to take it, but apparently a fiber customer in the hand isn’t worth two in the bush when you’re Verizon.

But it’s not too hard to fix this! We schedule an appointment, you send out the technician who makes my dog bark for hours on end while he tinkers around outside, he installs a new ONT on the side of my house and gives me my sweet, new Quantum router, I start paying you an extra $20/month for the service I’ve quite literally been salivating for all summer long, and in the end we all win!

You get some extra money without having to sell me on the upgrade I already want and I get an even faster Internet speed to rub in the faces of everyone I know who isn’t lucky enough to live in a FiOS market … which admittedly is almost everybody I know.

Verizon, I love FiOS and I don’t want to fight with you. I just think it’s bullshit that you’re offering better deals to the new customers you don’t even have yet than you’ll give me who’s been here this whole time. I’ve come to accept that your best promotional pricing is for new customers and my bill jumped up a ways after my contract renewed, but this is service – to tell me that I can have one Internet speed but not another is just cruel. 

We can get through this, you and me, but honey, right now you’re being kind of an asshole. Please call me when you’re ready to grow up.

Digging deeper into server issues…

October 29, 2015 11:49pm
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I think I’m making progress, albeit in a number of avenues that I wasn’t necessarily expecting!

One thing standing out that is seeming to be more of a problem than I would’ve thought is that simply put – I’ve got a lot of WordPress installs on this server!!! Sorting through them all, I came up with something like 20 installs in total, which is amusing because I’ve only got like 10 domains currently registered … apparently I’ve built up a healthy list of test installs in addition to some really old ones that I never post to and thus don’t really think about.

Now I wouldn’t have thought this to be much of an issue until I was able to start digging into specific processes running slow along with their associated URLs and database queries, and it turns out that WordPress’s own cron function has been at least part of the source of my problems, for a couple of different reasons:

A) Across those 20 installs, a number of them weren’t up to date – some of them being so old that I had to update them manually (gasp!), and more prominently some outdated plugins that either also needed to be brought current or in some cases removed altogether for instances where I’m not even using them anymore (i.e. I used to heavily use a backup to Dropbox plugin, but I’ve since come to rely more on system-wide backups and I don’t even have Dropbox installed on my laptop today).

B) Also, I still need to learn more about how WP-Cron actually functions, but I think there may have been some cases where many sites were trying to all run at the same time, which is just a general recipe for disaster! From what I’ve read so far, it sounds like WP-Cron actually triggers based on page views … which confuses me how my test sites were even triggering … but one option here might be to disable WP-Cron and instead tie them into real cron jobs at the OS level so that I can scatter them throughout each hour instead of triggering arbitrarily.

I’m not entirely sold on just yet, but realizing that I have so many separate installs definitely reinforces my curiosity around WordPress multi-site, which I was playing around with earlier this summer and actually abandoned when I decided not to redesign some of my sites. But from a resource management perspective it still might make sense, even if I just try to pull some of the like-minded sites into one install, or possibly even a bunch of the test sites, just to help get the numbers down!

All in all it’s a work in progress, but so far my last high load notification was at 5:50 pm last night and I updated a bunch of my installs in the hours since, so hopefully I’m starting to work through the issues and load is at least going down a bit! Mind you, it doesn’t help that I don’t really know what’s a reasonable daily page view volume that my current server should be able to handle … and granted, now that I’ve started playing around with routing some of my traffic through Cloudflare, I’m sadly reminded about how much junk traffic a server gets that never even becomes legitimate pages served (like brute force attacks, scanning, etc…).

One other tool that I’ve found that’s been helpful specifically in pinpointing the cron issues has been New Relic, which is actually a probe that I had to install under PHP on the server itself but then in turn monitors all sorts of neat stats about processing times and whatnot. I’m just using the free Lite version they offer now and it’s already been enlightening – definitely worth checking out!

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