Category Archives: Personal

Since this is of interest to some people, here is what my technical problem was, and what I did to resolve it: I’ve had – for many years – my hosting with Blacknight, web and email. It’s a decent package, a finite number of sites and domains for an annual fee. It’s reliable, and I don’t need high performance. However, what I have needed is SSL certs, the now ubiquitous padlock that you see in your browser address bar, which indicates that your communication with the site you are looking at is secure. This is something that until now, web hosting companies have been able to charge a lot of money for, and I can’t justify that for a set of personal sites. What I need are SSL certs from a company called Let’s Encrypt which are free, the only catches being that you need to replace them every three months (this is usually automated), and hosting companies don’t like them because they are free. Natually, Blacknight doesn’t support Let’s Encrypt.

So after much procrastination (and propelled, as noted previously, by displacement behaviour) I took the jump and ordered a VPS hosting package from OVH. VPS hosting means that I get a blank virtual computer somewhere (in this case from a French company called OVH) and set up everything myself, which is normally provided by the hosting company. I have become a web hosting company, in other words. This isn’t a problem! This is something that I do myself all the time, as a job and also as a hobby, because I don’t get out enough and have interests like a real boy would do.

I installed the required software for web hosting, the firewall, a control panel (so that I have a web interface to what is happening on the server and to set things up) and repointed the DNS, which is the addressing for where to find things on the web. I left my email on its existing hosting with Blacknight because I don’t want to get into hosting email myself; this is trickier than web hosting, and can be destructive if I make mistakes. This all took a few hours and I’d love to say that the second site went even more quickly, but the opposite was true and it all took much longer. Having done all that, I then ran into performance problems, regretted the entire project, solved the performance problems, and now I have one remaining (highly esoteric) issue to solve and I can say that I am truly the master of my own web destiny. Or at least a moderately competent webmaster.

Don’t try this at home. Actually, I could have literally tried this at home; I have a number of Raspberry Pi computers at home (the famous €65 barebones computer), and I could have hosted the sites myself, on one of those, from my home broadband connection. Any one of them would have been a lot more powerful than the VPS that I’ve rented, and with much more free space. So why not do that? Reliability. I couldn’t guarantee uptime, the availability of the server and the sites on it to the world. There are many things that can go wrong, between my patchy router uptime, power, the server software itself not being so reliable on Raspberry Pi, and I’d like the server to be something that I can just forget about.

This ‘back to blogging’ exercise is something which I had planned, on and off, for 8 years. Better late than never, I suppose. It has been on my to-do list, and coupled with a need to get all of the sites that I look after under SSL (the increasingly ubiquitous padlock that we see in our browser address bars – secure browsing), I spent this weekend setting up new web hosting from scratch and moving my sites to that, instead of doing any of the other – arguably more important – things that I should have been doing.

I call this constructive procrastination, where as a displacement activity, I get something else done instead of what I should have been doing; the energy is not wasted, and someone, somewhere gets something out of it.

I can’t say that it went smoothly, but I am pleased to say that while there are a great number of things that I’m terrible at, including a number things that are probably important to being a functioning member of society, setting up and fine-tuning a web server isn’t one of them. Nginx, PHP, and WordPress (and I really, truly hate PHP), from a standing start. I even impressed myself; I should do this for a living.

I’m at it again. I’ve moved my long-suffering blog to a new server in a weekend project I’ve called ‘Longform’, so that I can basically write longer Twitter posts on my own blog, which is where I should really be doing that kind of thing anyway. I enjoy the brevity of writing tweets, the challenge and the thrill of throwing something out to the world (not that anyone particularly reads what I write) in 280 characters or less, or building a narrative over a number of tweets. The thing is, it really is an open forum, and my tweets can individually land in someone’s timeline, shorn of all context, and what might be a running joke in my mind will take on a different intent for someone else. I’m not saying that I’ll avoid it here, but maybe I’ll take a little more time and craft something a little more considered when I’m doing it here.

And I’ll be able to edit. I hope that I’ll avoid that and get it mostly right first time. We’ll see. If nothing else, it’ll keep me off Twitter more, creating my own stories and outlining ideas and venting in my own space.

On not having Asperger’s

I get stressed about dealing with people, sometimes. Very stressed. I mean, a lot of the day-to-day stuff I can deal with, it’s usually fairly predictable and routine and it’s fine, but when it falls outside of that, or if there’s some conflict which I’m not mentally prepared for, or if I say the wrong […]

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So, here we are, January 2012 and I’ve decided to have another stab at writing on a regular basis again. I liked putting stuff on Facebook, but it’s not really the place for longer notes, it has it’s own audience and after all it is Facebook, the mighty walled garden of the new Web. I want to work at the discipline to go at it regularly, to get my ideas out there, and even if I don’t reach Tadhg-like output levels of yesteryear, it would be good to post once or twice a week.

And since I’ve decided that coding in PHP is truly a degrading experience, I’ll hopefully spend more time writing on it than fiddling with it (which is pretty much what I did before). A not entirely unrelated issue is still, and probably will be for a long time, what to do with the old andcurve site. It’s an archive, even if I now dislike a lot of what is there, it’s nice to keep it about in some form.

Here’s to a new start.