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 But as always, they were outdated (from January!)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 🙂
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!
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).
My last blog post has been about the fact that ReactOS is not a dead open source project, and that in fact they had just released a new alpha version. So to keep with my line of open-source-projects-journalism, today I talk about another open source project, this time a GNU/Linux distro: SliTaz.
You may have heard about this project before: SliTaz has been around since 2007, when the first “cooking” version of the distro was released. But what is SliTaz? As it says on the official website, it is “a free operating system providing a fully featured desktop or server in less than 30 MB”. And indeed, you download an ISO file that weights at about 30MB, which you can burn to a USB stick, CD or DVD, or run on a virtual machine. From there, SliTaz boots to a complete desktop with various utilities and office applications, server-side software and, of course, a web browser. A nice control panel lets you configure the system and install more applications.
The whole system runs in a small amount RAM, meaning you don’t need to install it to a hard disk to be able to use it; when you turn off the computer, the changes made are lost. So, this is not more nor less than a LiveCD that has a size of ~30MB. It is very fast, even on older computers.
Is this news? No, there have been tiny Linux distros around before, and SliTaz itself has been around for a lot of time, as I told. Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux and TinyCore are some examples of other GNU/Linux distros that have the goal of being small in size. I particularly like SliTaz because of its uniqueness: a unique packaging system (tazpkg), unique utilities, and a unique look too. DSL and Puppy Linux are already too “big” for me, and TinyCore is too small to be useful to me. So SliTaz just got it right for my concept of “tiny Linux distro”.
I don’t use SliTaz every day – it’s not my daily use distro – but I still like it very much and it’s been useful to me a few times. I use to keep around a USB pendrive with a copy of SliTaz installed – one never knows when it may be useful, specially after you’ve installed office tools like Abiword and Gnumeric. Of course, your idea of usefulness certainly varies from mine, and that’s why I like open source: just change it so it works the way it’s useful to you.
There have been no cooking or stable releases of SliTaz recently, and there was a lack of word from the developers. I started to think that the project was slowly becoming abandoned. Fortunately, today I checked their website, and this is what I see: news! Well, not really in the news section, but a blog post: Lack of news but work never stops.
So, in conclusion, it seems the project is still active, the only problem is that everyone is too busy to release cooking versions and write press-releases. And it looks like the team is working to get a cooking version out soon, which is great news, since the latest cooking was in May of last year and it’s out of date when compared to the work that’s been done on the repositories since that time.
To the SliTaz developers: Keep up the great work! 🙂
Edit 23rd February 2012: Slitaz 4.0 RC1 is out! Check how the new version looks like.
Looks like ReactOS 0.3.14 has been finally released. See the news here, on the official website.
I can’t say I care a lot about ReactOS, as I mostly use Linux and other *nix and have no interest on NT-based operating systems. ReactOS is one of the OSS projects I follow by keeping a “semi-closed eye” on them. But still, it is interesting to see how the project has evolved since its 0.3.13 release, almost a year ago. They now support Windows XP themes, wifi drivers, ACPI among other improvements.
But again, will ReactOS do any good when it finally achieves full Windows XP capability? I blogged about that some time ago.
Just to warn that, although I haven’t posted anything here recently, I’m not dead, nor is this blog. I just did not find anything worth blogging, recently. Any suggestions on what I can write about?
Some time ago, I posted here in the blog that the cheap Android tablet I had bought four days before, broke. Turns out the problem indeed was the corruption of the internal microSD card, which acts as the main memory of the thing.
The tablet in question is a “Flytouch 3″, P041 model with silver back. The processor is an Infotmic one, as usual with these cheap tablets (fortunately, Chinese makers are now moving to better dual-core Cortex processors). The original internal microSD had 16GB, no brand and said it was a class 4 card. Finally, after disassembling the tablet and taking the card into a reader on the PC (to try and format the card, since the tablet wouldn’t want to write to it and would fail every system update attempt), the microSD finally broke and now it’s not recognized on any reader – a low-quality card, now dead.
I ordered from Amazon another 16GB card, this time a class 10. I put it on the tablet, assembled it back, and the bootloader could flash a new update to it fine. Android is now blazing fast, either because the card is a class 10 or because the old one was very damaged.
So far, everything’s working except the hardware wifi switch I accidentally broke when the tablet was open. Again, I had some luck, as the switch was left on the ON position – and curiously, the wifi connection seems stable than before.
Let’s wish this thing keeps working as it has until now… it’s been almost 24 hours since I put the new microSD in.
Do you remember the OpenID standard, that aims to describe “how users can be authenticated in a decentralized manner, eliminating the need for services to provide their own ad hoc systems and allowing users to consolidate their digital identities.”? Well, if you happen to frequently authenticate on a service or website that supports it, or if you happen to run or maintain one of these websites or services, most likely you remember. But the surprising part is, OpenID is used in more things than you can imagine.
Till some time ago, I don’t recall seeing much opportunity for logging in with an OpenID – except on the websites of the ID provider themselves. The first OpenID authentication method I recall using was using Twitter IDs, although in that case I could as well have used Google or Facebook. But people use OpenID without actually recognizing it as an implementation of that standard. Yes, OpenID is that “Login with Facebook” or “Login with Twitter” thing. These login methods are usually just not (visibly) branded as being OpenID.
So basically, that represents a win for OpenID, right? Well, in theory yes, but my opinion is different. While many websites carry out OpenID in such a way that it is comfortable for every user, others simply don’t. What do I call a “comfortable usage” of OpenID? An implementation of the standard in such a way that it allows you to choose the ID you want to use. Eventually, it also lets you not use OpenID, through the creation and authentication of a traditional account, where the chosen authentication parameters are isolated to the website or service in question, like we’ve seen before the OpenID boom.
This “comfortable implementation” fits the most users I can think of: by assuring authentication using accounts on the most popular OpenID providers, such as Google, WordPress and Facebook, and using simpler, standalone (i.e. not tied to any service in particular) and/or less-known providers such as chi.mp, claimID and myOpenID, the chances of the person willing to be authenticated having an ID with one of the providers supported is way bigger. But because not everyone likes the OpenID idea, or they might simply not have a registered account with one of the IDs supported, an additional “traditional” authentication method should also be provided, so people can create an account with the website or service in question, and not tie that account with an OpenID.
The advantages of what I call a “comfortable implementation” are very noticeable in my opinion: it increases the user base of a website, since if people find it easy to login with an account they already have on other service, it’s very likely they’ll login on that website. It also makes the act of engaging with the website a breeze, because people don’t need to go over the hassle of maintaining yet another user/password combination, there is no signup form, captcha or email validation. While this may change depending on the OpenID provider and on the service or website implementing OpenID authentication, in most situations the OpenID login process is easier. We just got to recognize another advantage: if users find registering and logging in easier, the website or service will not only get more users, as it will have its users more satisfied. As I said, for the user there’s not the hassle of not remembering the specific password and having to reset it, and for the website management, there can be also a reduction in the number of support requests, assuming OpenID is properly implemented. All I did here was point some of the advantages of OpenID, but it can also have a lot of disadvantages when its implementation is not so comfortable for the user.
A website that I remember having a proper implementation of open IDs is Blogger, at least when posting a comment on a blog – it allows you to choose which profile you want to comment under, from a Twitter, WordPress or Google account to a OpenID, discussed here.
But what is an “uncomfortable implementation”? From my point of view, OpenID can become a very negative thing if, for example, the website the user’s tying to authenticate to doesn’t offer the ID provider on which the user has an account. It is also possible that an OpenID implementation fits most, but not all. A very clear evidence of this problem is given with websites that offer “Login with Facebook” as their only authentication method – I don’t think this can be called an OpenID implementation, even though Facebook is an OpenID provider. But why is this a problem? People just start based on the premise that all the internet users have a Facebook account. False. I can illustrate this with personal situations… it’s not happened once nor twice, but dozens of times: *le me browsing the ‘net*, *le me finds a website he likes*, *thinks he should signup*, *looks for the signup link*… oh crap, looks like all we get is this:
Call me stupid, “forever alone”, or whatever you want: I might even have a Facebook account, but I may not use it and even if I do, I don’t want all dozens of websites being authenticated with that s*ht Facebook is, and eventually with these websites being able to post to my Facebook wall, access my status, photos or other things “normal” people put on Facebook.
I’m giving this example for Facebook, but the problem goes for other ID providers. There are websites that support open IDs, and a few even say they support OpenID (the standard), but then you’re presented with a “Login with XYX” link where XYX is a single ID provider of their liking. Sometimes you’re lucky enough and you have an ID from this provider, other times you just need to go registering for yet another ID, defeating all the purpose of open identification and OpenID.
Although, there are cases where requiring a login with a specific service is mandatory. For example, on services that are dedicated to changing your Twitter profile background with a generated one, a Twitter account is of course required, so a Twitter-only login makes all sense. Same goes for Google/Blogger/Facebook/WordPress dedicated services, but please, if it’s not required to be tied into a specific service, then just let people use whatever ID provider they want, or provide a traditional signup and login method. Else, open authentication and OpenID might become hassles that drive users away.
Other things can be discussed about OpenID – I can argue that it is unsafer than traditional user/password logins, because if the OpenID provider gets cracked and authentication information gets exposed, then all the accounts authenticated with OpenID on other websites are open to the crackers – much like an user that always uses the same password and username on multiple websites. We can also discuss about these shiny buttons provided by social networks and the like, that allow you to authenticate using your account on them, to “like” or to “share” posts – these are used for user tracking, and seeing what the crowd likes, helping on creating even more directed advertising. There are plugins that block these trackers, and usually some hosts file or iptable rules work well, fortunately (if you don’t use the service from which the shiny trackers are coming).
I do not represent the OpenID foundation, Facebook, Google, Twitter or other OpenID provider. I am not encouraging their use or otherwise; I’m just exposing my very irrelevant opinion on the subject. If you spot any factual or spelling mistake, please contact me or comment below. Thanks for spending some minutes of your life reading this post!
I know it’s a bit too late already, but since what matters is the Christmas spirit and not the timings, here are my wishes for a great Christmas and a happy new year 2012. Let the happiness and healthiness be with you this Christmas and new year eve, as well as throughout 2012 and, well, your whole life. I hope all your good wishes come true! 😀
Now, my turn on Christmas wishes: let’s hope my new shiny, cheap Android tablet I bought (Flytouch 3, P041 model, not a Christmas gift!) gets fixed – its internal memory (a microSD card) is corrupt. Now I need to fix the microSD card in a Linux computer. Linux computer? Check. SD card reader? Check. microSD reader? Missing. Trying alternatives… microSD-to-SD adapter? Missing… Santa, all there is on my gifts list is a way to fix that tablet’s microSD, I want a microSD-to-SD adapter or a USB microSD reader (costs $1)!
I’ll let you know if/when I fix the device and get rid of that damn error the Flytouch returns when trying to burn the Linux kernel to said microSD!
gbl08ma / Gabriel Maia
Let’s keep things short as I have lots of things to do. On 30th November, this website was working functional as it had always been since April 2011. Then suddenly, in the morning of 1st December, the server had been reloaded.
At first I thought it was because someone with admin powers at cheapvps.co.uk, the provider of my previous server that hosted this website, reloaded the VPS. But after some searches, I ended concluding the VPS, which luis123456 had given to me in April 2011, was still owned by someone else – and that someone was trying to make use of the VPS.
I found the email of the real VPS owner (in fact, I used it for logging in to the VPS control panel, but I always had thought it was just some random address, because it only had two letters and five numbers!). I sent an email to that address, and some hours ago, I got a reply from David W. – the real owner of my previous gbl08ma.com server, to which I called “hydrogen”. So what happened in fact? According to David, he told luis123456 to “maintain” (and no more than that) the VPS. luis123456, whose real name is Luis A. (so we talk about real names here) was not authorized, to use the VPS. Still, (and I repeat, this is the saying of David), Luis gave me the VPS. Luis never said anything about this: I thought the VPS was some kind of sponsored VPS which the sponsor forgot about.
So, the old server was reloaded. But things were worse for my side: I was supposed to have an automated backup system, but it was broken and I had no time to fix it. Shortening: I have no backups of the old server, except Google cache, which didn’t cache one or two blog posts. Apart from the text of the posts, cached by Google, I lost everything on the server, that is, all files, images, configuration files, scripts, WordPress plugins, themes… hosted within the server. This also includes the few Anti-Aliased fonts for Rockbox, which I’ll have to upload again some day.
I just finished restoring all the blog posts I could. I’m still wondering how to restore comments done by other users on the various posts. But wait, I missed one part, right? How did I get this new server?
Indeed, this is a new server. I say the website keeps being the same only because the matter and intention of it keeps being the same, but in technical terms, this is a whole new WordPress install, on a whole new server. While this has some advantages, it also has lots of disadvantages – you can compare this to formatting a dog slow Windows computer, without making backups first: after re-installing the operating system, you get a clean system but most of your data, configuration and software is lost.
This new server was given by Humza Bobat, Infinity at freevps.us. So yes, now I have two server provided by freeVPS.us; since I know other users will get angry with me by having the admins of freeVPS opening an exception of the one-vps-per-user rule, I must provide some good argument to it.
In fact, I need two server for various reasons. One of the reasons, is that since the virtual servers I own are not very powerful (they are low-end boxes), they can barely handle two websites on the same server – note that we are talking about WordPress on this website, and while WordPress can run on fairly modest setups, I want some speed both for me and for the sometimes 10 concurrent users of the websites (it happens, for example when my stories get featured on Slashdot).
The multiple virtual host configurations, while they work well if you never touch the configuration files, are harder to maintain, in my opinion. But the main reason why having multiple servers is necessary is the following: being servers provided for free, you never know when one goes offline or you loose it forever (OMG! It just happened!). If one goes offline, you can still use the other for temporarily hosting an additional website or at least some informational page. Plus, you should never put all your eggs in one basket: the server that served gbl08ma.com went away with its data, but the situation could be worse if all the things were on it. If I had what I have on my “helium” server, the one that serves 4.l.to, on the server I lost, then I would have lost some hundreds of MB of information that is important (some of it even a bit confidential).
A interesting thing is, I have automated backups of the helium server working, although it gets much less visitors (not including short url clicks) than gbl08ma.com gets. The Murphy’s law regarding backups applies: even if you have backups of your things, they will never include what you just lost.
What about naming conventions? The “hydrogen” name now refers to this new server, while I’ll call the old one from on now “deuterium” 🙂 . The 4.l.to server keeps being called “helium”, as ever. I also have one testing server called “lithium”, but it isn’t used for anything permanent – as I said, it’s a test server.
If you have any questions regarding the data loss on this blog, please post on the comments. I’ll be busy for the next days/weeks/months trying to restore more of what was lost.