Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Another host

Don’t worry, this is not science fiction and I haven’t transferred my consciousness into another body. It’s just that the time has come to start moving my small number of websites to another hosting provider, which means the usual pain of making sure everything transfers along with the sites themselves.

My own recent history with tsoHost has been (happily) uneventful, despite the other problems reported elsewhere – outages, poor support experience and so on. Not unusually I didn’t sign up with tsoHost directly, but with a predecessor which was acquired – 5quidhost. They did honour the pricing deal, which was good, but there has been very little apparent innovation in the interim. In particular I wanted to move to SSL support for the sites that I run to avoid them being blacklist, but tsoHost has steadfastly refused to implement it for their cpanel-based customers without a significant increase in charges. So it seemed like it was time to think about a change.

It turns out that some of the original 5quidhost founders have fetched up at Stablepoint, so I thought I give them a look. They do have included SSL, but more to the point it was a good opportunity for me to split out the sites I author (it’s only really 2 currently, with one for my partner) into separate environments rather than having them sub’d off the base domain. So far I’ve only moved my personal domain – bassoongb.net – but this seems to have gone pretty well. I’ve taken the monthly subscription for now just to make sure it all works before committing for the other sites for a longer period.

The move has been pretty straightforward. SSL worked out of the box. Even the mail move proved uneventful, mainly because I have used POP3 so really had no mail to move server-to-server. While I do like the benefits of IMAP, I’ve been quite disciplined in my POP usage, and tend to only send a lot of mail from one place. I guess it’s also because when I started this internet lark POP was all that was available – I’m a dinosaur really.

Naturally it’s also turned into an opportunity to “freshen up” the website…

Finding the attackers

Possibly a slight over the top description of what I found while doing some housekeeping on my main orchestras website. I keep track of the statistics of visitors to Amateurorchestras.org, on a monthly basis I download them to a spreadsheet and draw a couple of graphs to convince myself that I’m doing something.

Whilst doing this I wandered down to some of the more abstruse statistics that are kept for my site, specifically the “required but not found” URLs section (i.e. all the ones that generate a 404 response code). This is helpful to see if anyone has any links pointing to the site that are out of date, or in this case spots an incorrect reference I had on the site itself. While doing this it’s interesting to see what ELSE people are looking for on the site.

The vast majority that aren’t simple mistakes are actually links that would exist were my site to be powered by WordPress. I imply this to mean that they belong to “people” looking for vulnerabilities. This seems to reinforce my earlier experiences trying to run my own hosted WordPress site – it’s simply quite difficult because nefarious actors are ALWAYS probing. Interesting.

Finally learning a new language

Having promised myself that I’d pick a new skill during the period of passivity occasioned by the pandemic, I eventually started a concerted effort to get a new programming language under my belt. Like a lot of people my age I started life with BASIC, in my case via a batch service when I was at school followed by typing programs in labriously on an Amstrad CPC-464 and hoping they were saved by the tape machine afterwards. I carried on with BASIC on an RM 380Z while at college – principally to produce fixture tables for our hockey team.

Once I moved into the world of work I picked up FORTRAN for my first job as a trainee actuary – principally used in the valuation of pension funds using a sophisticated underlying suite originally running on a Pr1me mainframe, subsequently replaced by an IBM 4341 and a rapid conversion to VS/Fortran under VM/CMS. At that point I changed jobs and REXX became my lingua franca and has remained so for the 35-plus subsequent years. Yes, I’m not really a programmer, just a dabbler. REXX has probably encouraged a certain laissez-faire attitude. It has no form of data typing (actually it’s dynamic), very freeform syntax, and not very many native instructions. It’s original purpose was a scripting language for IBM’s VM operating system, and for the purposes I’ve used it, it’s been more than adequate. My main use currently is to produce the (static) web pages that represent my list of amateur orchestras in the UK.

Consequently picking another language to learn has exposed my somewhat homespun approach until now. I’ve decided not to stray too far from what I know, and take on Python. I’ve started out by following the edX course “Computing in Python”, and it’s been an education! I did think of simply trying to understand how to replicate my REXX efforts into Python, but decided that it would make more sense to understand properly how Python works. Next week I’ll be looking at “Data Structures”…

The problem with *inux

I’ve finally started semi-seriously testing out whether a move to a non-Windows operating system will work out for me. I’m trying out various flavours on my old PC to see whether I can replicate my normal usage, in other words whether I can run enough of my regular applications and find alternatives for others. I’m also immersing myself to some extent in the culture by listening to a number of podcasts for at least a year or two of back-issues. One is the fairly mainstream Ubuntu podcast, the other so far is the rather more eclectic Late Night Linux.

I’ll comment in the future about my own findings, but for now I just wanted to make the obvious remark about THE MAIN PROBLEM. Which is of course the plethora of variants of the basic desktop(s) which causes decision paralysis. While I get that choice can be a wonderful thing, we’ve definitely wandered into Schwartz’s Paradox, where more most definitely is less. I could speculate as to WHY there are so many variants, I could even rail at the extraordinary amount of duplicated work, but suffice it to say that having in excess of 250 “active”ยน versions of basically the same operating system is a recipe for confusion, patchy adoption and ultimately irrelevance.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve started with two Ubuntu variants, Ubuntu desktop itself (LTS version 20-04), and Ubuntu MATE2 version 21-04. Both are competent desktop environments, neither has crashed on me yet, but I wouldn’t expect them to on a ten year old Intel-based PC with no esoteric hardware. My slightly newer main machine has an AMD graphics card and a reasonably new processor along with NVMe storage and other bits, so we’ll be looking forward to that!

1. according, at least, to Distrowatch

2. and don’t get me started on the male gamer-nerd naming tendencies

Talking to nobody

I’ve recently started listening to a couple of podcast streams which have been both entertaining and informative. It’s yet another manifestation of social media to go along with Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc etc. I’ve always preferred the written side and not video or voice. It seems to me at least that 5 minutes of video information can be absorbed in less than a minute of text, and rewinding back an forth to find the bit you need later is much harder than finding the right page in the book.

However, I think I’m rapidly becoming a minority. I prefer the long lasting to the ephemeral nature of modern social media. So here in this blog I’m literally* talking to nobody. The stats say so.

* a favourite modern word.