We’ve been pretty lucky in that I’m not sure if we’ve ever had a package stolen off of our porch.

A few weeks ago I had a couple mis-delivered to a neighbor’s house, but they were very cool about it.

Fun Fact – When I was still living in my first apartment, I actually had a neighbor accuse me of stealing their packages because the FedEx guy had dropped them on my doorstep by mistake and I’d pulled them inside to take over to their house after work the next day! The lady left me like a page-long letter taped to my door about reporting me to the police and the building managers because they needed that package to take to her parents house that weekend.

Needless to say, I hope that stupid printer jammed whenever they tried to print anything that their Grinch of a daughter sent to them… 😯

Now that said … this video is still amazingly satisfying!

It’s by Mark Rober, who worked for NASA on the Mars rover, and he goes into incredible detail describing his engineering process before finally showing what this little payback device can do to someone who dares to steal from kids at Christmastime.

P.S. +1 for the fart spray 😉

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…

Foreshadowing!

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! 😉

Plex has become a mainstay in our home over the last couple of years, expanding from only housing our movies and TV shows to also include educational programs and songs for the kids, series I’ve enjoyed and wanted to archive off of YouTube, and now … Christmas movies, too!

This is a little project that I’ve wanted to do for a while because previously all of our holiday shows were scattered throughout the regular movie and TV libraries, which are then separated by adult and kid content, whereas I always thought it would be nice around the holidays to have a dedicated library where you could look through only the Christmas stuff when you were sipping hot chocolate and looking to get all jolly and bright and whatnot.

There are a couple of different ways you can do it…

  • Create a separate folder and copy all of your holiday movies and shows into it, then add it to a new library dedicated to holiday shows … but this takes up twice as much space.
  • Create separate TV and movie folders for Christmas movies, then add them to both your existing libraries as well as your new holiday library.
  • (my choice) Create a new folder for Christmas shows and point your new library at it, then create symlinks to all of the media in their original locations.

This last option ended up working out well for me because it saved me from shuffling a bunch of files around, plus it gave me a fix for an unexpected problem that arose from certain Christmas specials that are normally organized under TV shows…

See, with the main Christmas library in Plex defined as a Movie library, it doesn’t find a metadata lookup for Garfield – S00E06 – A Garfield Christmas.mkv. The nice thing about symlinks, though, is that the linked name doesn’t need to equal the source name, and so I’m able to turn the TV-friendly filename into something that the IMDB can actually recognize like this – A Garfield Christmas Special (1987).mkv.

The command I used in Linux to create these links looks like this (executed in my new Christmas movies library folder):

ln -s "/path/to/TV Shows/Garfield & Friends/Specials/Garfield - S00E06 - A 
Garfield Christmas.mkv" "A Garfield Christmas Special (1987).mkv"

I’d say it took me maybe a couple of hours spread out over several sessions of searching through each library for the shows & movies I wanted, then copy & pasting the links into a Terminal window to create each symlink. The result is a nice, clean library with nothing but Christmas, and if I need to hide it away come January 1st until next season, that’s easy enough to do, too. 😉

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…

Digital Calendar Fun!

May 3, 2018 6:13pm
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This is a project that I’ve been looking forward to working on for a long time! Thankfully by the time I finally got around to it, most of the messy stuff has been worked out by other people and throwing this together was actually pretty easy… 😉

Ever since I realized that my wife and I could share a calendar via Google, it seemed like a no-brainer to help keep me on the same page because I’m the one who can never keep track of doctor’s appointments and all of the random stuff that we’ve got going on for the family throughout the month. The thing is, Google Calendar is great when I’m on the go and just want to check something on my phone real quick, but when I’m at home, I still like the simplicity of a wall calendar hanging in the kitchen or my office to be able to see at a glance if we’ve got anything going on that week.

The solution is actually pretty simple:

  • one old computer display (I picked this 22″ Dell up at a used monitor sale for $10)
  • one Raspberry Pi (I’m using the zero model because barely any CPU is needed here)
  • one free account on DAKboard.com

What’s cool is when I originally thought about doing this, I figured I’d have to create a custom page and embed the calendar from Google in it, and then host that locally on the Pi along with any photos that I wanted to incorporate into some sort of slideshow, but instead the DAKboard folks have done all of that heavy lifting for me by creating a web service that pulls in calendar info using iCal, as well as weather data, news via RSS feeds, even a to-do list from Todoist, plus background images from sites like Instagram and Flickr!

I literally fought with my Raspberry Pi for two days because I got a bad USB dongle in my order and couldn’t get it to recognize a keyboard/mouse, and then setup the calendar itself using DAKboard’s features in about 20 minutes.

The display is just a full screen Chromium browser pointed at the Private URL that DAKboard gives you.

I added one line of code to the Pi’s config.txt file to rotate the screen to better resemble a wall calendar.

Now pretty much all I have left is to modify the startup script to have it automatically load Chromium and go right to that URL, install a script to make the cursor disappear on inactive, and then figure out how to hang the thing on the wall!

(and luckily, DAKboard has a neat-o blog post that details pretty much all of this stuff!)

It’s kind of surprising how quickly this much came together once I actually started – I do have a wishlist, but it’s admittedly pretty small…

  • Incorporate a motion sensor that will put the screen to sleep once everyone goes to bed (no idea how to do this)
  • Incorporate some sort of controls to allow flipping between months (my wife insists that this is vital to completely replace our paper calendar)
  • Create a separate photo account specifically for calendar photos (because it’s neat to link to Instagram, but I take pictures of dumb stuff sometimes that doesn’t belong on our family calendar!)
  • Support for more than one screen (I think DAKboard right now only supports one and I can see having different layouts for kitchen vs office, etc…)
  • Hide the power cords once this is mounted to the wall (it’s going to be a pain, but I basically just need to install a new outlet wherever the calendar will go)

I suppose I should point out that DAKboard’s business is actually in selling a retail version of this where everything is done for you, though they didn’t pay me to write this post … but I’d be happy to write a review if they want to send me a free unit to try out! 😉

Theirs is still a little pricey – $299 for a 24-inch display, whereas mine will likely still be less than $75 even after I pick up a wall mount for it.

Hopefully the price will come down, though, as displays continue to get cheaper. I see it as an alternative to the digital picture frame craze that we had a few years ago, but thankfully with a much larger display! With everything else so dynamic and connected around us, it seems weird to still be penciling in appointments on a piece of paper hanging on the wall, and at least this is still cheaper than hanging a full-fledged iPad to fulfill that coveted touch capability. 😀

If I was buying a monitor specifically for this, I’d aim for a slightly newer one with built-in USB (to eliminate a power cable for the Pi) and HDMI (to avoid an extra adapter from DVI to HDMI to micro HDMI), but you really don’t need much … I’m pretty sure you can still get displays like that in the neighborhood of $100.

I’ll be sure to post something else if/when I figure out all of that trickier stuff, but for now I’m pretty satisfied!

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???

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