oh poopies…

December 20, 2018 1:13am
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So apparently I had a hard drive crash in my Plex server while we were on vacation last week.

Possibly two … still looking into that!

What’s really weird is that throughout the whole week, whenever I’d connect remotely (we typically tether Sara’s iPad to the TV so the kids can watch their shows on the road), the drive that holds most of the kids movies & TV shows was reporting as missing … however when I got home and finally had a chance to troubleshoot, it turns out that drive was fine and it was a completely different one that was clicking away like a hard drive on its last legs!

…one that oddly enough, we were able to connect to on vacation…

Now I’ve got that one unplugged until I can see if I’m able to copy the contents over to a new drive … need to address that sooner rather than later because it’s the drive where all of our new TV shows download to before they get copied to wherever they actually live.

As for the other impacted drive … I don’t know what the deal is there because it mounts ok, but the OS just doesn’t recognize it. Really hoping it’s something I can easily repair so that I don’t have to hassle with re-downloading everything…

I mean, the first one doesn’t really surprise me because it was one of the oldest drives in the server (almost 3 years old) and it honestly gets a lot more use than all of the others. If anything, I can’t help but think that if I had already been able to upgrade to my shiny, new rackmount NASthe system would’ve recovered automatically and this would’ve barely counted as a blip on the radar!

That said, I’m happy that at least Plex itself is up again because I’ve had it down for two days now because the NAS part didn’t want to reboot thanks to the dying drive, so at least the kids can go back to watching their usual shows without having to “borrow” Grandma & Grandpa’s Netflix account.

It’s kind of amazing how much you end up relying on this stuff without realizing it. I definitely need to start exploring some backup options next year as this 50 TB media library continues to grow. 😛

I get a little antsy about my home Internet speed when I spend any amount of time planning out home server stuff, and considering my little purchase of 50 TB of hard drives the other day…

In a way, it seems only natural – my next steps are to migrate the storage part of my media server into a rackmount NAS to go alongside the other rackmount server I acquired earlier this year that now houses the rest of Plex and the tools that I use to download content.

I’ve already picked out some new Ubiquiti rackmount network gear that I want to replace the router from my ISP with…

…and today I was even looking into the option of running 10 Gbps connections between my servers because, well, the only thing cooler than moving files around at 125 MB/s is moving files around at 1.25 GB/s!!!

So yeah, when we’re talking about internal network speeds in excess of one gigabit, it’s hard not to glance at the weak link in the chain that is my Internet connection and wonder, “Why can’t you keep up, little guy?!”

And don’t get me wrong – I totally get that only 25% of the country currently even has access to fiber Internet and a lot of people are stuck with cable or even DSL … but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow that the line currently running into my garage could be chugging along at a crisp and refreshing 1 Gbps, but instead here I am scrapping by with a mere 200 Mbps like a chump out of the stone age…

Truth be told, I just moved up from 150 Mbps to 200 Mbps this fall, but before that I’ve been sitting at 150 Mbps for almost 4 years now. In fact, I upgraded just before Verizon sold FiOS in Florida off to Frontier because I was afraid they’d make it a lot harder to upgrade in the future…


To be honest, I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Frontier because the FiOS network itself is wonderful … it’s just that Frontier themselves isn’t a very smart company to be running it. Their customer service is typically awful, their pricing isn’t competitive, and lest we not forget, this was the fiber company previously ran by the CEO who thought that gigabit was a fad and consumers don’t really need it.

Sure, maybe not now, but what kind of a technology company doesn’t anticipate their customers’ needs well into the future?!

Anyways, I’ve been going back and forth with Frontier on various social media channels about how it isn’t fair that they only offer promotional pricing to new customers. They’ve actually argued back that it’s an industry standard and everyone does it … as if that makes it ok … and maybe it would, if only they didn’t charge half again as much for existing customers once those crazy promotions run out!

Seriously – I currently pay $75/month for a plan that a new subscriber can get for $50/month.

…and they can’t find any way to incentivize me sticking around for seven years now?!

I think what bugs me the most is the disparity for upgrading to the tiers above me because $10-20/month extra would be understandable, but that’s not what Frontier’s fee structure looks like…

  • 200 Mbps – $75/month
  • 300 Mbps – $125/month
  • 500 Mbps – $175/month
  • 1 Gbps – $225/month

Another fifty bucks for each leap is excessive, particularly when the likes of Verizon and AT&T and Comcast all selling gigabit access in their markets for around $100.

Even Spectrum, our local cable alternative, offers gigabit for $100, although the argument there is that they don’t support symmetrical speeds yet, so the upload is still way lower than the downstream … at least for now.

I told the account manager I was emailing with earlier today that I’d be happy to pay an extra twenty bucks to go up to 500 Mbps or $125 … hell, I’d even do $150/month for gigabit, despite it being almost double what Verizon is charging for the same service!

But when did we get to the point where $50 upgrades were the norm … unless Frontier simply doesn’t really want to sell these highest tiers and they figure if people want them badly enough, they’ll pay through the nose for them.

I suppose this is technically offering gigabit service, but not at a price where it will ever get widely adopted, that’s for sure…

It just makes me wish that Verizon had never sold us off, or that Frontier would hurry up and go bankrupt already so that someone else could swoop in and buy all of the assets from them. It’s sad that broadband rollout hasn’t been far more aggressive in the United States because it’s not like these companies don’t have the money to do it, and we’ve a million times over proven the value of high speed Internet access in our daily lives.

I really don’t like this direction we’re heading where Verizon is convinced that wireless is what we need for broadband – mostly because of how they love to charge by the GB for it – and right now they’ve got their stooge heading the FCC that’s dedicated to gutting any and all regulations holding them back from maximizing Internet profits for shareholder benefit.

Amidst all of my frustrations this evening, I actually found myself pondering if it would be worthwhile to try load balancing between two ISPs … for the same $175/month that Frontier wants for 500 Mbps, I could keep the 200 Mbps line that I have with them and buy a second, gigabit connection from Spectrum to try them out as an ISP and enjoy the benefits of that extreme download speed!

The thing is, as much as Frontier insists that I’m a valued customer, even though they won’t offer me a dime to stick around despite not having to pay the acquisition cost to earn me back again as a new subscriber already, you would think that they would be quick to stop an existing customer from testing the waters with the competition. You’d think that an extra $75/month would still be far better than negative $75/month for a lost customer…

…but Frontier doesn’t think. That’s the problem!

I know that I’ll get gigabit Internet here at home eventually … hell, it has me wondering if we’ll see 10 Gbps home connections still in my lifetime! But much like Veruca Salt, I want it now! 😉

Archiving Fun

July 3, 2018 10:00pm
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Now that I’ve more or less got my server upgrades under control, the last couple of weeks I’ve been really enjoying making use of that new computing power and filling up my array of hard drives with all sorts of neat, random things that I’ve stumbled across online.

Stuff like PDFs of Interaction magazine – published by Sierra Online at the height of their rule of the adventure gaming genre, I used to read this thing from cover to cover and ordered a lot of my favorite games from the 3-for-1 sales that they’d feature.

Or old videos of Welcome Freshmen – this weird, sketch comedy about high school that Nickelodeon aired when I was like 12 years old that helped prepare me for all of the girl angst and bully encounters that my own high school experience would come to offer!

Or even very old videos of the very first season of Sesame Street from 1969 – did you know that not only did Oscar the Grouch start out being orange, but that the Muppet characters actually played a fairly small role in the initial episodes of the show???

The last couple of years I’ve found myself becoming more cognizant of the temporary nature of the Internet – simply put, knowing that a site or article or video you enjoyed six months ago could very well not be there if you wanted to go back and check it out again today. And that can be for any number of reasons…

  • the website went out of business
  • the person maintaining it passed away
  • the host got a DMCA notice and took it down
  • the creator changed their mind and took it down themselves

I’ve lost access to some great works over the years, and others I still have only because I had the foresight to save a copy for myself, so now that I’ve got servers sitting in my closet with disk space to spare, the thought has occurred to me that maybe it’s worth personally archiving some of my own favorite content so that it’s still around 20 years from now regardless of whatever happens to the originals on the Internet itself.

I’ve always really liked what the Internet Archive does, particularly with their Wayback Machine, just because it’s super cool to be able to look back at websites from when the Internet was still at its infancy … even sites that I put together myself! Right now they’re storing something like 30 petabytes of data covering everything from websites to books, TV shows, YouTube channels, software, photos – you name it!

And while I’ve got a long ways to go before hitting my first petabyte of storage, it’s also neat that the same tools that they use to archive things are available to me to run on a much smaller scale.

I remember always having sort of a love-hate relationship with my DVR once I finally got one because although I loved the idea of recording my own shows digitally and having them accessible whenever, I hated the limits of the small hard drive that they included and having to pick and choose what to keep and what to delete … because what if I do want to watch episode #68 of The Simpsons at 3am without fishing through a box of DVDs???

Mr. Plow, BTW! 😉

The On-Demand channels of digital cable were cool, but as content began to grow, channels themselves would have to pick and choose what to offer – here’s season 2 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, but if you want season 1, you’ll have to buy the DVDs…

And even streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and iTunes today have their limits because they’re constantly negotiating licenses with all of the studios – there are entire blogs dedicated to what’s coming and going on Netflix in a given month.

Although I’ve never really hit the level of a hoarder in real life, although I do hate to throw away things that I think I might be nostalgic for later, I’m very much a digital hoarder because hard drives are cheap, it’s a fun way to look back at the past, and it’s surprisingly convenient to access these days when I’ve got entire Christmas tree boxes of DVDs and CDs sitting on a few hard drives in my servers that can then be accessed from any TV or device that I own, 24 hours a day.

I don’t need to wait for FX to run another The Simpsons marathon or wonder if my cable provider offers access to their On Demand thingy because I’ve got 638 episodes sitting on 340 GB of space in a server that *I* control to watch whenever I want.

And of course, that’s the crux of digital hoarding – just because I could doesn’t mean that I ever will, but still…

Ultimately it’s hard to tell what will be “of value” decades into the future – sure, people still probably won’t get much out of the random pictures that we take of our lunches, but it’s one of those things that we don’t really know until it’s too late unless we think ahead and preserve copies of our history just in case. Right now historians are pouring through old books and VHS tapes for content from before the Internet ever existed that will essentially be lost in another twenty years if someone doesn’t take the time to digitize and archive that kind of stuff today.

The other day I stumbled upon this old post from the Internet Archive of a propaganda video created by the US government back in 1943 when they were rounding up Japanese Americans to send them to internment camps after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. It’s surreal to watch simply because of how positive the narrator talks about this horrific crime that our great grandparents committed in the name of national security, and it’s all the more relevant today as we see escalations around public perception and immigration, and yet with that video predating even VHS tapes, if a historian hadn’t taken the time to archive it, it would’ve just been lost in the annals of time.

I’m not saying that old podcasts and sitcoms will have the same relevancy as historical films, but there are many facets to historical value to a society.

I’ll be sure to post more as I collect more things and evolve my thoughts on this topic, as over time I think they might grow into a more formal effort, whether it’s working with the IA or who knows! 😉

Virtualization Fun

June 23, 2018 1:15am
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So after a handful of learning curves over the last couple of weeks, my Plex server officially has a new home!

Although my hope was to this summer be able to afford the new Synology NAS that I’ve been eyeballing for a couple of years now, I recently found myself in a position to instead upgrade pretty much everything else at a price far more affordable than that NAS, so here we are. 😉

Almost two weeks ago to this day, I discovered /r/homelabsales – a swell subreddit where fellow computer geeks are looking to offload old computers … particularly server-grade hardware that they themselves have acquired on the cheap to play around and learn on. Surprisingly enough, the same night I found the subreddit, I also found someone here in Tampa looking to get rid of a nice, little rackmount server – a Dell R10 with dual CPUs and a small amount of RAM that was still 6x what I was running in my old server!

The cost of $140 seemed pretty good at a glance, so the next day I met up with the guy and drove home with a new-to-me server whose box filled almost the entire trunk of my car… 😯

Since last week, I’ve given myself a bit of a crash course in virtualization – I’ve used plenty of VMs over the years myself, but I’ve never administered one, so I picked up a free copy of VMware’s free software and started tinkering with it. I definitely made a few mistakes along the way, mostly with regards to oversubscribing resources, but I think that’s mostly all behind us and as I type this now, I’ve migrated the Plex application itself over to its own new VM on my new server and I’m working on moving the various download tools that I use to get my media into their own VM as well.

The plan is basically to turn my old server into a de facto NAS – because its only role going forward will be to house hard drives – which will hopefully help to extend its life a bit longer by offloading all of the downloading and transcoding onto the newer and more robust machine, at least until I’m able to pickup that fancy NAS and retire my old desktop hardware turned home server altogether.

It’s crazy to see how far that thing has grown in only a couple of years! When I first started using Plex back in the fall of 2014, I think I had about 1.5 TB of media almost immediately. Six months later I was up to 20 TB, though things admittedly slowed down a bit from there … at least temporarily. Now 3.5 years later, that storage array is up to about 42 TB across 8 disks – two of which are external USB drives because I physically ran out of SATA ports in the box and the last time I messed with adding a new drive on an expansion card, it wiped out a 4 TB disk without a second glance, so I’m rightfully so a little nervous to touch anything else inside until I’ve started migrating data to a better solution!!!

But really, what I’ve got now has been serving me great – the few TB I still have free should last me until I’m ready to make that move and at this point there really isn’t that much more for me to add … or at least not stuff that can’t wait until space isn’t an issue again, anyways.

As for the new server, it’s admittedly pretty neat to watch 16 cores handle more Plex transcoding than I have kids and friends combined right now! The other day I did a test run and started streams on every device I could find in the house – three TVs, my phone, Christopher’s iPad, and my PC – and even with a couple of them transcoding, there was still plenty of overhead to spare, so that makes me happy. I’ve actually been able to use some of the new horsepower to convert 4k videos into encodings that my TV can actually handle, so it’s been neat actually getting to watch some 4k content for a change, too!

If anything, it gives me something new to play with while I save my pennies for the next upgrade.

…and figure out where I’m going to fit a server rack in my bedroom closet…

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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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.


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!

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