Updates on lots of things

I figured out I didn’t post anything here for quite a while – actually more than two months! There have been a series of events that have stopped me from updating this blog and, for a good part of these two months, have stopped me from doing anything besides checking my email and doing some school work.

The first cause for my online absence was that, a few days after I posted about this server having been reloaded, school classes have started. I happen to be taking probably the hardest school year I ever took – at least, that’s what older people said before it started, and which proved to be true now that two months of classes have gone by. Free time isn’t that abundant and I prefer to spend it doing actually something more useful than writing about random things on this blog. That almost explains why I haven’t been active on communities like FreeVPS. But there’s more…

Some time in mid-October I was left without a reliable, 24/7 Internet connection. This, after two or three months without an unlimited-traffic Internet connection, during which I had to hold the downloading of system updates for both Linux and Windows on all of my machines, plus the Android tablet; to keep to a minimum the access to online streaming media; and of course to hold any other big download/upload tasks. I had no Internet connection at home, which means checking the emails at school when possible. Checking anything other than email is horribly slow and unpractical on my old phone, and that’s why I repeat email is the fastest and most reliable way of communicating with me.

At the same time, I was being kept busy with school work. Free time was spent developing an Utilities software for my graphic calculator, a Casio fx-CG 20; this was probably the most useful thing I could do without an Internet connection, because at least gcc still hasn’t moved to the cloud.

Around 1st November, the technical problems that were stopping me from having Internet at home were solved (read: free wifi hotspot magically came back online!), and so the second cause for my lack of participation in the online life was solved. But there was still the first cause: school. So slowly, as I was having free time, I began to put me up to date on what happened while I was offline, and to make slow progress on my projects.

Apart from all this, I also have friends and family, and my real-life social life is way more active than it used to be one or two years ago (my brain must have installed some system updates, finally).

To conclude, on the IT side of things I’m now developing a JPEG image viewer for the Casio Prizm, using the picojpeg library (incredibly useful). The thing already works but is damn slow, plus selecting files is still a pain; this Prizm add-in isn’t yet published anywhere, or even announced on any place except this blog post (and don’t consider this an official announcement).

I finally had time to fix some bugs at tny.im and add some features: the optional short URL toolbar is now powered by Meny, which was developed by a guy which also has lots of other awesome work, namely a promising online presentations service called rvl.io.

I’m also trying to keep participating on online communities such as FreeVPS and Cemetech, and to keep my Twitter feed rolling, but the first cause for my online absence is still valid, and will only stop being on the beginning of July next year. This doesn’t exactly mean I won’t be online, but that you shouldn’t expect me to be as active as I once used to be. Again, if you need something, email me (admin at tny dot im, or my username on Gmail).

Until next post!

Server reloaded

The dedicated server where the VPS that hosts this blog was installed had a serious hard drive failure, and all the data in it was lost. As a result, I was prompted to reinstall my server. The “hydrogen” server was down from  around the 2:00 UTC to around 17:00 UTC (11th September).

Fortunately, I had a backup of the blog contents from 8th September. Reinstalling WordPress and all the software required to run it (Nginx, PHP, MySQL) was still a big hassle, and looks like the PageLines settings aren’t saved in the backup WordPress generated, so I didn’t feel like setting up PageLines again and the blog is back to a white-ish theme (which I have already modified to include a widget area at the bottom…).

It also looks like restoring a backup results in subscribers being sent an email per each post restored… fortunately, the blog only has one subscriber at the moment so this wasn’t a major spamming event.

Oh, and I almost forgot: tnyCloud is gone, but that shouldn’t be a problem since nobody seemed to use it, not even me. Also, since I was forced to move to a smaller VPS, I no longer had enough disk space to host a service like tnyCloud, so basically this hard drive failure saved me the hassle of declaring it dead.

I hope the prolonged downtime didn’t annoy you much. The tny.im URL shortener is hosted on another server which was up all the time – UptimeRobot tells me it has a whooping 99.97% uptime ratio. Now that it already has the three nines, it’s time to work to get the five nines 😉

A server reload is nothing compared to what happened eleven years ago.

Theme changed

I felt the previous theme was a bit too white-ish so I changed to another one. I hope you like it.

Rugatu: Q&A for Bitcoins

People who follow my work probably already know I’m an user of world’s first digital cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. I’m not a very advanced user, I just use it for storing the little profit from my websites and receive a few cents for some occasional work I do online. It is also the only way you can donate money to me. I’m always looking for ways to earn a little more money in preferably free/easy ways, and I’m a bit tired of going through free offers, getting free bitcoins from faucets and waiting for the occasional cent from ads. I don’t think freelancing in the web development area is for me, either – I feel like I’d never manage to finish any work in time, and my skills are not that high.

So, back on topic. What brought me to write this post were two things: a) I didn’t post here in a long time; b) I’m doing this for money. Heh, joking, I’m not doing this just for money. I explain: I was yet again earning a little money from Bitvisitor, when I came across Rugatu. I had read and seen it before, but I never cared to visit it. I thought it was just another questions and answers (Q&A) site, like Yahoo Answers. Honestly, I have better use for my time than answering questions from many noob people (sorry for being harsh, but that’s the truth!), even when the use for that time is spend hours laughing at 9Gag. Oh well – I better stop now, this is ruining my reputation.

One thing made me stop for looking more carefully at Rugatu, and it was probably the only thing that made me register, for the first time ever, on a Q&A website. The thing is, this Q&A website runs on OSQA, which is Open Source software licensed under the GNU GPL version 3! Amazing, isn’t it? Amazing it might be, but no, that wasn’t exactly what made me register on Rugatu. The fact that one gets rewarded in Bitcoins, when answering others’ questions, was the distinctive aspect that made me register at this Q&A site. This may look irrelevant but for me it makes all the difference: you get paid for your work of answering questions.

Yes, I’ll probably still answer questions from noobs, but hey, when my answers are good, I get paid for them! It makes a big difference.

And another thing: that site is not very well known yet. There don’t seem to be noobs there, nor stupid and non-sense questions. Which means I won’t be answering “How format ma pendrive?” questions but interesting ones put by other people. Let’s hope I haven’t set my expectations for Rugatu too high. It’s just that I registered perhaps an hour ago, and still haven’t answered any questions. I’ll try and do it right after I finish this post.

But why would I be writing about this little-known site called Rugatu? Hell, I haven’t even written about my own cloud service which urgently needs to get clients or it flops and puts me owing money to other people, but instead I prefer writing about some Q&A service?  I’m writing this for three reasons: first, it gets traffic to this abandoned blog; second, it helps Rugatu grow (I wish people wrote blog posts about my websites, so why don’t I start and do it first about others’ websites?); and a third reason, is a selfish motivation: money money, must be funny… Read here. Yeah, if my answer with this post gets voted up enough, I’d earn 1.50 BTC (over $10 USD considering 1 BTC is now worth about $7), which should be enough to help cover a flop with my service tnyCloud. In fact, if I earn, the 1.5 Bitcoins are going straight to the tnyCloud wallet to help with the server costs.

Sorry if this post looks like a forced positive review of a service which, actually, I haven’t tried very well yet. If it looks like so, then it probably is – but one needs to compensate the little amount of advertisements on this blog somehow, right? You can start thinking about what my next post will be: perhaps I’ll become a Microsoft advocate (ugh!) to win a free copy of Windows 8, or an Apple fanboy (ugh ugh ugh!) to win a Apple sticker (they don’t give away anything more valuable) or I’ll just argue how Samsung is right about their devices not copying Apple just in order to win a Galaxy Tab. Probably next blog post will be something just as boring as the one I wrote about the Like button some time ago. Eventually, it will be about intellectual property and the stupid thing software patents are.

For some reason, this post is looking like a link farm. I better finish it with a giant link to the website this post really is about…

Rugatu: a Q&A website that rewards in Bitcoin

Try it, question it, answer it! Then earn the coin 🙂

EDIT: I did it! I won the 1.5 Bitcoins. Yeah! 🙂 Thanks a lot Rugatu and everyone who voted.

Presenting tny.im

Yesterday I wrote a post saying l.f.nu was down… and it still is.
So I bought a domain and moved my URL shortener to yet another domain:

http://tny.im

This time, I’m sure it will be up for at least one year – if it goes down within this period, at least it won’t be because of the domain, as that’s paid for an year already. I didn’t pay it, some friends at Cloudstg did – I’ll pay them back gradually, by advertising their services and such. Again, thanks for investing $11 on my service: if it weren’t you, I’d have to spend my savings on buying this short domain, which would leave me with no money to renew this .com domain next October.

The tny.im domain is as long as l.f.nu, but with less dots, nicer, and since it’s a top level domain and not a subdomain, I have much more control over it. This is a important point, as I plan on adding IPv6 support to tny.im, and a FreeDNS subdomain wouldn’t let me have multiple records on a subdomain. With a real TLD, I can have both an A and an AAAA record for the same domain.

Like it was with the transition from 4.l.to to l.f.nu, no data has been lost, and 4.l.to and l.f.nu links work as long as you change the domain to tny.im. Statistics, link editing, etc. all work.

I hope you enjoy tny.im, and remember, this time it’s for real: the shortener will be around for more than a year, assuming I can get enough profit from it to keep paying for the domain. Having me profiting with tny.im only depends on you – by using my shortening service, you’ll help me earn some cents from ads (but, please, don’t click-bomb them!), which I’ll use to renew the domain and eventually pay for server(s), in order to offer you an even better service.

Again, I hope the ads are not annoying… if they are, make sure to drop me a line so I can fix them.

Status update

I have been very busy with my offline life: school, family and friends haven’t been leaving much time left for me to blog here. When I have some free time, I try to keep up-to-date with the online communities I take part in and also work on my l.f.nu URL shortener. By the way, have I told you that l.f.nu now supports editing short links?

When you shorten a new link, you receive a random code specific to it. Keep that code saved as if it were a password, as it is the only way to edit a shorten link through its Click Statistics page (add a + symbol to the end of the shorten link, then open the tab “Manage”).

This feature about link passwords (which I call “passcodes”) is something I developed just for l.f.nu, it is not available in the standard YOURLS installation. I have no plans to make it open source right now, as I haven’t implemented the thing as a plugin, and the code is a bit unorganized.

So no, I haven’t disappeared from the online world yet. I’m just a bit more silent these days…

I don’t appreciate the “Like” button

Of all the ways to express your opinion on some subject, I believe the “Like”, “+1” and similar buttons are some of the worst. Why? Well, nowadays “liking” something on the internet means little to nothing. People are asked to “like” things, “likes” are sold and bought as a product and not actually as a consequence on someone’s feelings on what one has seen/read/experienced, and now the quality of things seems to have become measured in the number of “likes”.

I usually say the “Like” button was the best invention for those that are so lazy that don’t want to write anything, or those so lazy that don’t want to create an opinion on a certain subject. It is also a great thing for those who don’t care about explaining why they “like”. The same argument is also true for “disliking”, on the places where that’s permitted. Those who have something to say will comment or reply, but “liking” is something so vague that adds little value.

It’s important to let people express their opinion on other Internet content in a meaningful way. Allowing users to comment and reply in an Internet that’s more and more made by its daily users is a good thing (that is, if you really promote freedom of speech). It perhaps even motivates people to think about things and form their own view on the subject, instead of just “liking” a view that’s being forced into their minds.

Imagine someone on the Internet says “WordPress is a really cool blogging tool”. You have the following options: you can either “Like” this statement, comment on it, or don’t give a s*** about it and move on. If you agree with the point of view stated, but have nothing to say on it, you’ll probably click the “Like” button. If you don’t agree, you’ll move on, or eventually post a short comment stating that you don’t agree. And if you are of those that actually wants to express an opinion and cares to write trying to use the language properly, you’ll comment. Now imagine you can’t comment… probably you’ll just move on.

If you comment and your comment is insightful, it will add value to an existing discussion or perhaps even start a new one. But those who “like”… what will happen? When you see “34 people like this”, do you have any idea of what those 34 people think? Did they “like” because they found it funny? Because that content was interesting? Because it was so wrong that it made one laugh? And who knows how many people didn’t like that content, specially when compared to something else? I think this need for comparison and ranking caused “likes” to be used as if they were a measurement unit, as I’ll explain later.

I even fear one day people living in a democracy will vote for their representatives by “liking” them. Knowing how many didn’t “like” any of the options is going to be hard. And you won’t know it was because none of the options suited them, or because they were ill in the elections day, or because they preferred going to the beach instead of voting, errm, “liking”. Knowing how many people “liked” twice can get hard too, but that’s easily fixed.

One more thing that illustrates the stupidity of the “Like” (or similar) button: it doesn’t exist in natural human communication. Well, it does exist, but it’s way more elaborated than a “Like”. Imagine you’re hanging out with your friends, in the pre-“Like”-button era, and one of them tells a joke. Nobody’s going to say “I like” without saying anything more. Since it was a joke, if one has found it funny, laughs will follow. And if it was really funny, one will laugh a lot (I also have my opinion on the LOL thing, but that’s for another post). And if the joke wasn’t funny at all, or the way it was told wasn’t good enough, one will at least smile, or say “Man, you’re not good at telling jokes”.

And another example: if you go to a restaurant and you enjoy the meal you ordered, it’s unlikely that you just say “Like”. Even if you only want to say you liked what you ate, there are many, many ways to say “Like”. Now if I want to be ultra-nerd, I can even say the “Like” button impoverishes people’s vocabulary. 🙂 So to conclude this point: at most, people have brought “I like this” into real-life communication after it became popular in the web – it didn’t exist in such a monotone and endlessly overused way before that.

I’m not saying the “Like” button isn’t useful – for the times when you actually like and there’s nothing else to say. The problem is, people became lazy and now they prefer to click a button than to write their opinion – sometimes because they don’t have any opinion, other times because it’s just easier to “Like”. Again, if I jump to extreme cases, the web might become something where some party says “1+2=5” and all there is to say is that “56,322,943 people like this”.

Now about the “Like” button as a measure of quality of things. If for a given “product X” there are 60000 likes on some social network and for another “product Y” there are only 2000 likes, people will often think “product X” is better than “product Y”. But those who will care about doing some research will find that “product Y” doesn’t contain “substance N”, which is really bad for health, while “product X” does contain it. “Product X” has more likes because it appeared first on that social network as part of an advertising campaign that costed millions. Conclusion: the number of people that “Like” something is worth nothing, even though at first it might look like so. Even because “likes” can often be bought: imagine that millionaire advertising campaign included buying 10000 “likes” to bootstrap it, and “liking” things becomes even more meaningless.

But the example doesn’t need to be about evil companies and products that are bad for health being advertised in a giant scale. You certainly know those people that ask for likes on their content. And those annoying “If you are happy, like this”-style messages. This happens in social networks in each other’s friends circles.

Oh, and another thing: “Like” buttons are used for tracking people whenever they go on the web. You can leave the “website X” that hosts a “Like” button, that as long as there is a “Like” button of that “website X” in any other page, the owners of that website can know you’re at that page. And I’m not dreaming, as you know, Facebook and other social networks do this.

This stupid “Like”/”+1” button is one of the many reasons why I deactivated my Facebook account some days ago. But this isn’t only about Facebook, it’s about everything sponsoring a “Like” button. (At least Twitter doesn’t have such a “feature”, hooray! 🙂 )

Putting short: yes, you can keep the “Like” button, but make sure people can comment – and I’d encourage them to comment and show their views on things whenever possible: I think it adds a lot more value to the Internet.

EDIT: looks like Facebook “Likes” aren’t speech protected by the US First Amendment.

This website is back!

Looks like my servers and websites have all decided to take some holidays and go offline, fortunately not at the same time. Some weeks ago, it was 4.l.to/l.f.nu that decided that some days sleeping would be good, after its domain went down (causing the change to a new one and the whole service rebranding). And more recently, the VPS where I was (yes, was) hosting this blog, which by its turn was hosted in a friend’s dedicated server, went down the trash too: the guys at the provider my friend uses decided to play around with the hard drive of the dedicated server, and we ended up without any of data that was in it.

Unlike what’s usual, this time I had backups (yepeee!). But as always, they were outdated (from January!) and consisted of a WordPress export file. So, I didn’t have any backup of the server configuration or the other scripts and data I had in the server. Conclusion: I had to set up everything from scratch – but wait, first, I need to explain: my friend offered to install WordPress for me, (as I’m very busy with real life, I’ll explain later), but he used CentOS, and since I really don’t like CentOS and there were some tiny “wrong” details in the WordPress config (just a matter of personal choice: I do not like to use “admin” as the admin username, even for security reasons), I reloaded the VPS with Ubuntu.

*Ubuntu: I would have used Debian, if it weren’t for the fact the software in its repos is, although stable, far from being the latest version. And my idea of “stable-recent” ratio for software is not quite the same as Debian’s idea.

As I was saying, I had to setup everything from scratch on a new VPS, on another dedicated server that’s not from the same provider (but the dedi is from the same friend). That means some hours around the shell installing and configuring nginx, PHP and MySQL, as well as configuring WordPress-specific rewrite rules and other server settings – and I’m not finished yet, the current settings are not how I’d like them to be.

I said above I was very busy with real life: yes I am, I’m busy with lots of school work, and I’m also a bit tired of the online world for now (the part of the internet I use/follow has no news lately, things are pretty boring currently). But today I had a school trip for the whole day that got me really tired, and when I got home, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to study anything for the school tests I’m taking in the next weeks. I had a server to configure and a blog to restore, and thought I could use the free time… and here I am, blogging when it’s almost midnight on my clock.

Despite the hours spent, I’d say my work has been done without major problems. I’m getting either too used to installing nginx+php+mysql, or it’s because it is/was Friday 13th.

Yeah, is/was. It’s four past midnight.

EDIT: this server is now much faster, its host was suffering from some misconfiguration – again, my friends are awesome and fixed it 🙂

4.l.to is back, but now as l.f.nu

After the unexpected breaking of the l.to sudomains, 4.l.to went down, as I explained in this post. It’s been over ten days since that domain went down, so I decided to move 4.l.to to another domain, consequently renaming it (of course, duh!). After lots of searching of the FreeDNS domain catalog, I finally found another domain name that was just as long as 4.l.to, and happened to have a one-letter subdomain available.

So I registered l.f.nu. It’s my “new” URL shortener. All the 4.l.to shorten links work now, if you change the “4.l.to” part to “l.f.nu”. The official announcement about the change is here. While this isn’t as good as having all the 4.l.to links working again without changes, I guess it’s better than, for example, having a complete database or server crash and no backups, thus losing all the shorten URL<->long URL associations and click statistics.

l.f.nu allows for some interesting “acronym-sound-reading” results. It can be interpreted as “Linking For New Universes”, “Linking For New(s)” (if you read the “nu” as nee-yuu), or even “Linking For Nothing Useful” 🙂 . I’m sure you can come up with some new meanings too; if you happen to find an interesting one, don’t forget to post in a comment!

I also gave my URL shortener a new look. It no longer uses the default Bootstrap theme (it’s become too mainstream!), but rather the United theme from Bootswatch. And finally, I also fixed some bugs in functionality and looks (read: port the thing to the latest version of Bootstrap). There are still some things left to fix, and I plan on adding some new features one of these days.

Also, looks like the new domain l.f.nu is allowed on Twitter, while 4.l.to was not – it was marked as dangerous even though I don’t know why, perhaps it was something common to all the l.to subdomains. Looks like this domain change is better than I initially thought!

Don’t forget to comment on this relaunch of 4.l.to, which is the launch of l.f.nu!

4.l.to is down

My URL shortener, 4.l.to, is down because all the .l.to subdomains, managed through FreeDNS, are down too. There’s little information available and all I know is that the subdomain is broken since 19th March, as said on the FreeDNS subdomain management page.

There aren’t any planned times to have the service restored – as I hope you understand, this is completely out of my control. In the meantime, all the links shortened with 4.l.to, which were over 500, are broken.

If you have any information that can help find what’s the future for the l.to subdomains, don’t forget to write a comment in this post. And, if you happen to have a short URL which you don’t mind donating for URL shortening (I can share the advertisements profits), I will consider moving/renaming 4.l.to while preserving all links (since the server is up and with daily backups).