Blogging History/Workflow

tools

Set the wayback machine to August 2009. I was in a pretty bad place work wise, and I created a blog on WordPress.com merely as an outlet. Shortly after that I dove into hosting my own blog, using my domain tralfaz.org, and the rest is history.

In between then and now, I have been through three (four if you count my work for Southern Arizona Greyhound Adoption) hosting / VPS providers, worked with WordPress from version 2 to the current 4.7, Drupal, Joomla! and Ghost. I have experimented with writing a custom site on the CakePHP framework. Continue reading →

It was a new day yesterday,

Ian Anderson

but it’s an old day now …

2016 is finally over, and 2017 has crossed the threshold. While we lost many of my Rock and Roll idols during 2016, and we finally had to say goodbye to Tate, our seizure greyhound, it wasn’t all bad.

Dealing with some of my domains, making a transfer in December, I found that my prized possession, the .com for Tralfaz was lying fallow. So, instead of leaving it parked, or using it for some experimentation (the last use I had of it was as a playground for CakePHP, a pretty robust framework), I just spun up a simple WordPress site, picked a pretty clean theme (Hello World from Themehaus) and setting it up.

But, what will I post here?  I already have a site at tralfaz.org with almost 800 posts. Many of those posts are trivial, or product reviews, or fun observations. I have thought about wading through and “cleaning” it up, reducing the noise. But that, in the words of Herr Drumpf, “Yuuuuuge.” Nope, apart from a complete restart, that is going to be a cesspool.

I do have a professional site The Product Bistro that I use for my product management, marketing, product marketing, and other serious topics. So that is covered.

Perhaps I should keep this serious, some posts on politics, on business, on technology or whatever.

Well, hang in there, and let’s see where this goes.

Waking up in a Libertarian US

The Gadsden Flag

A dream sequence of waking up in a Libertarian USA

Joe Conservative wakes up in the morning and goes to the bathroom. He flushes his toilet and brushes his teeth, mindful that each flush & brush costs him about 43 cents to his privatized water provider. His wacky, liberal neighbor keeps badgering the company to disclose how clean and safe their water is, but no one ever finds out. Just to be safe, Joe Conservative boils his drinking water.

Joe steps outside and coughs–the pollution is especially bad today, but the smokiest cars are the cheapest ones, so everyone buys ‘em. Joe Conservative checks to make sure he has enough toll money for the 3 different private roads he must drive to work. There is no public transportation, so traffic is backed up and his 10 mile commute takes an hour.

On the way, he drops his 12 year old daughter off at the clothing factory she works at. Paying for kids to go to private school until they’re 18 is a luxury, and Joe needs the extra income coming in. Times are hard and there’re no social safety nets.

He gets to work 5 minutes late and misses the call for Christian prayer, and is immediately docked by his employer. He is not feeling well today, but has no health insurance, since neither his employer nor his government provide it, and paying for it himself is really expensive, since he has a precondition. He just hopes for the best.

Joe’s workday is 12 hours long, because there is no regulation over working hours, and Joe will lose his job if he complains or unionizes. Today is an especially bad day. Joe’s manager demands that he work until midnight, a 16 hour day. Joe does, knowing that he’ll lose his job if he does not.

Finally, after midnight, Joe gets to pick up his daughter and go home. His daughter shows him the deep cut she got on the industrial sewing machine today. Joe is outraged and asks why she doesn’t have metal mesh gloves or other protection. She says the company will not provide it and she’ll have to pay for it out of her own pocket. Joe looks at the wound and decides they’ll use an over the counter disinfectant and bandages until it heals. She’ll have a scar, but getting stitches at the emergency room is expensive.

His daughter also complains that the manager made suggestive overtures towards her. Joe counsels her to be a “good girl” and not rock the boat, or she’ll get fired and they’ll be out the income.

His daughter says she can’t wait until she’s 18 so she can vote for change or go to the Iraq War.

They get home and there’s a message from his elderly father who can’t afford to pay his medical or heating bills. Joe can hear him coughing and shivering.

Joe turns on the radio and the top story is a proposal in Congress to raise the voting age to 25. A rare liberal opinionator states that it’s an attempt to keep power out of the hands of working class Americans. The conservative host immediately quashes him, calling him “a utopian idealist,” and agreeing that people aren’t mature enough to make good choices until they’re at least 25.

Joe chuckles at the wine-swilling, cheese eating liberal egghead and thinks, “Thank God I live in America where I have freedom!”

Continue reading →

The New Republican Healthcare Plan

The new republican plans for health care sure sounds like “just die quickly, and quietly” Well, as we expected, once the Republicans captured the White House (well, in 29 days now), their first order of business will be to repeal the ACA.

They have been talking about repealing it and replacing it for 6 years now, bloviating at every opportunity, and doing fuck-all in the House with 54 attempts to repeal or defund portions of the ACA (or the pejorative “Obamacare”) so this isn’t a surprise.

However, some of the rhetoric coming out of the Paul Ryan camp is interesting. Suddenly, instead of shutting it down on day 1, they are talking about repealing and delaying for 2 – 3 years until they can devise a “replacement” for it. Yeah, that sounds do-able. 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 →

Fun and games – Cloudflare and SSH

As I mentioned in a recent post, one of my sites, a WordPress site to help a friend sell their house, got hammered with xml-rpc requests. It didn’t get hacked, but it did bring apache to a painful halt, and filled the memory.

To prevent that, I setup Cloudflare in front of it, to act as a CDN and a way to prevent it from being attacked. Thus, in the future, I should be able to regain control without too much pain and suffering.

However, I discovered one minor issue. Since I pretty much use ssh to login to the droplet almost daily, I quickly discovered that just didn’t work.

At first, I was scratching my head, thinking that I messed something up majorly. Then I recalled that I had switched to Cloudflare for my DNS and CDN, and it clicked. Alas, how they work is they hide your IP address, and then use the magic of their service to serve up your cracking good jams.

Unfortunately, the ssh request gets routed to the wrong ip address, and naturally, no response.

Not being able to ssh into my server is a really bad thing. But how to work around it?

First I tried to set a local hosts file to override the DNS, but that didn’t work. Bummer.

Second, I can ssh if I use the dotted quad IP address. It works, but, I am too old to remember that many dotted quads.

Third, and the one that I am using is to create a cname that points a prefix to the original address (in this case, I am using ssh so ssh.tralfaz.org will point to the TLD, and then I turn off the cloudflare redirect. Not optimal, but it works. It does leave me somewhat vulnerable, but alas, not many attack vectors happen to the subdomains.

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.)

Russian Intervention in the 2016 US election

Yep, the Russians interfered with the election. Of course, the US has done this for over a century, so we shouldn’t be upset. Unlike many opinions flying around about how much outrage that the Russians (and Vladimir Putin) have interfered in the 2016 US presidential election, by hacking both the DNC and RNC servers and email. Of course they only released the goods on the Democrats, thereby putting a finger on the scale for the victor, Donald Trump.

However, this outrage is a bit mislaid. Of course, a little googling will identify a long history of the US interfering in the affairs of other countries. From interventions to protect the US Fruit Company in Honduras in 1903, to the overthrow and coup d’état that installed the Shah of Iran in 1953, to repeated and long term intervention in Nicaragua, there is plenty of instances of the US government and CIA having their hand in the cookie jar. Continue reading →

Customer Success – Key Role

The role of Customer Success Manager is a key part of the digital transformation of business, driving both ARR and Lifetime Customer Value up Digital Transformation, it’s all the rage, and doing a simple Google search yields a plethora of hits, from training to consultants, to the big market research companies, all weighing in. This wave of disruption continues to grow, and brings with it myriad opportunities to completely change the business.

In a nutshell, in the late ‘oughts, with the introduction of the Apple iPhone, the convergence of ubiquitous network connectivity, and the rise of the “cloud,” the stage was set for yet another transformation of business. Suddenly, the paradigm of where you work, and what tasks you perform were being disrupted. From the simple: an app on your smartphone to approve purchase requisitions, to the complex: integration of the CRM, the Marketing systems, and the ERP system to provide deep insight into the function and flow of business, and much more were realized every day. Continue reading →

The Death of the (insert name here) Party

In the run up to the 2016 Presidential election, I heard pundit after pundit, and commenter after commenter bleating about how Trump’s candidacy was going to be the end of the Republican party. The fact that they nominated (with a full throated roar) such a terrible candidate, a narcissistic, racial pandering, xenophobic, serial sexual harassing, and in general boorish candidate, surely, this would destroy the Republican party.

As tempting as it was (being a fairly liberal, mostly Democrat voting person) to back in the impending demise, and hapless wandering in the dark of the Republicans, daring to hope that even gaining the 20 or so seats in the house for a complete Democrat rout, I had to step back. Continue reading →