Maintenance Day

I have been busy this weekend. Some changes, some consolidation, and more to come.

First, I have exported all the posts from the sister site, tralfaz.org. That was my original home (and my original domain, as the .com variant was being hogged for a long time). All those posts are here now, and searchable. Almost 800 posts in total added. All the images and formatting should be good. Some spot checking of posts look A-OK.

Originally begun in 2009, there were very few posts from that time. However, I really picked up the pace of posts in 2011, through the wee hours of the start of 2017, when I really created the tralfaz-dot-com site. Those 7 years, tralfaz-dot-org was my main property. It will remain up for some time (and there are plenty of people who have posted trackbacks to that site) but it will eventually disappear. Continue reading →

Getting my online properties in shape

Digital Ocean Header

Having started with my web hosting at Media Temple, and their managed offering, their “Grid” platform. Circa 2010, it was state of the art, and worked very well. Apart from some shared MySQL database that had a couple of hogs who affected performance early, it was flawless.

Then in late 2014, I got the notice that Media Temple had been sold to the pirates at GoDaddy. Having dealt with them running the website for Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption, I had little love or respect of them, and their sleazy business practices. So, upon receiving the notification that Media Temple had been sold to GoDaddy, I decided it was time to take the VPS plunge. Continue reading →

Interesting Project – SSL on Digital Ocean

The advent of Let’s Encrypt means that there is no real excuse to not have SSL/TLS encryption enabled on your website. Now I do on my Ghost properties As someone who has long run his own websites, first with managed hosting, and now with VPS instantiations, I have wanted to take the SSL/TLS plunge. But, as a hobbyist, the cost to go HTTPS has just been a burden that I couldn’t justify. Sure, I can handle a half dozen VPS’s on Digital Ocean, as the bandwidth is modest, and I have yet to make a big splash (hit wise), it is truly a hobby. Registering a certificate with a top tier authority, for a simple website, was $120+ per year. So I lived with the unencrypted http protocol. Continue reading →

A fun afternoon (attacked website)

Thursday, December 15 was a day like any other until the afternoon. Then I got the notice from the Jetpack plugin for one of my WordPress sites that it was down, and couldn’t be reached.

This happens occasionally, so I wasn’t too upset. Pointing my browser to the site Home2Baja gave a Database connection error. Simple enough to fix.

So I fired up PuTTY, and logged in. I attempted to restart MySQL, the first line of fixing the issue. Weirdly, it restarted, then stopped automatically again.

What f*ckery is this?

So I restart the droplet (this is hosted on the incredibly awesome service Digital Ocean) and after a minute try to browse to the site again. Same issue.

Grrrrr.

So I once again fire up PuTTY, and log in. Now all sorts of bat-shittery is happening. I am getting BASH errors, not enough memory to fork. I can’t even log in, so I go to the Droplet service on DO, and log into the console.

… and the screen fills with Apache error codes.

A little Google-fu, and it appears that the site is getting hammered with XML-RPC requests, causing Apache to use all the memory, and essentially shutting down the droplet.

The problem was that I could power it off, and on, but before I could SSH in, the site was jacked with the cascade of XML-RPC requests.

Finally, I got in, and was able to apply a fix (also, documented well on the Digital Ocean support knowledge base), and got it back under control.

Now, I have Cloudflare running interference, so that in the future if/when I get hammered like this again, I can block it without being locked out of my own VPS.

A fun afternoon.

(Background: The “Home2Baja site is a website I created for a friend who is selling his home in San Felipe, B.C. We use Google Adwords to drive traffic to it, and it gets 30 – 50 hits a day. Clearly someone pointed their attack vector at it, and it was getting 4,000 xml-rpc queries a second. No wonder why my measly 1gb droplet was getting inundated. Yes, there is a firewall, a fairly restrictive firewall, but these queries come via HTTP, or port 80.)

Next up on the Raspberry Pi

Last week, I wrote about how I on a lark bought one of the raspberry pi single board computers. The first round of goodies for it was a SD card (to write the OS to and boot from), and a HDMI cable to connect it to my Samsung monitor.  Got it fired up and all was cool.  Of course, it sitting naked on my CSS reference book was a bit clunky, so back to Amazon I go.

Now it is in a clear plastic case, and I have a dedicated power supply for it.  I also have a WiFI dongle to get it on the internet, and ready to do more heavy lifting. I began to work my way through a Python tutorial, and will continue that this weekend.

Next up, I am going to have to move my kit to the living room for a couple hours.  Alas, to get the Linux install updated, and to add the correct kernel modules for the WiFi dongle, I need to be on the internet, and that is where the router is. Oh well, but after that, I should be good to go.

I am still impressed with what comes on this little board for a mere $35.00. I bought it to bring back memories of my early computer experiences, an 8-bit Atari system, but this has so much more, including internet, and HD video output.  I remember endlessly fiddling to get a decent serial port (the 850 module) and a modem to connect to the outside world (there was no private internet at that time), living with composite video out on a mediocre CRT display. Living with 48K of memory (actually, that was a luxury), writing small assembly language adjuncts to speed up Basic or Basic XL (OSS System software ROCKED), and running a full featured BBS system.

I still have an old Atari (some of its games are still very playable), but I don’t break it out often, because it is so painful to setup, so this will be my “toy” for now.

But what will I do with it in the long term?  Media center? MAME cabinet? Do some robotics?  Maybe build a weather monitoring system?  Hoo boy, it will be fun.

Next post will have pictures, I promise.