Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks – re-learning linux

One of the reasons that I have contemplated often the jump to a VPS for my web hosting was the freedom to do what I wanted. That was always balanced by a bit of fear that I might f*ck up my VPS linux installation.

I had played with linux often, in the past, but never seriously. It ran a firewall on my home network back when I had an ISDN line, and I had built some inside the firewall file servers with old RedHat linux. But that was child’s play. Going VPS means I am out there on the internet, and I am responsible to not mess it up.

Gulp.

I have been up and running for a month now, and nothing serious has happened. Fortunately, the VM is pretty well configured out of the box. I haven’t had any real issues with the box (apart from needing to restart Apache a couple of times). And I am enjoying “remembering/relearning” how to do the basic things again. I still am fearful that I will blow it in a big way, but by and large, as long as I keep it patched, and keep all the software I am running up to date I feel confident that I will be OK.

I still worry about a SHTF event, and I will be instituting a backup process on a weekly basis. But, so far, it has been a positive experience.

Taking the plunge: Going VPS

Earlier this week, I learnt that my hosting provider, (MT) has been sold to GoDaddy. While they assured their customers that they would be independent, and that GoDaddy was trying to change their reputation, I know that it was just a matter of time before the douchebaggery of GoDaddy infected the ethos of MediaTemple.

I had used a shared hosting account that worked remarkably well. I have 9 domains and 5 active sites (and two test bed sites) on there, and have been pretty satisfied with performance, and extremely satisfied with their support. But I have gotten to a scale where being constrained by a normal hosting account was an annoyance. Several times I investigated the process to move to a VPS (virtual private server), and never took the plunge. Just too much effort.

The changes earlier this week pushed me over the edge. I have opened a VPS account at a smaller, highly recommended web host, A Small Orange. I am in the process of moving my main site, and getting all the bits and pieces set up the way I like. A few teething problems (like the DNS changes taking insanely long to propagate), and some incompatibilities in the PHP setup that I need to overcome, but in general I am satisfied.

Of course, I am a bit rusty on my unix mad skillz, so I am boning up on how to manage and configure a linux system. Fortunately out of the box, they set it up well, and it is pretty secure, so I am glad to inherit that state. The VPS uses the cPanel and WHM services to manage the bits and pieces, which is pretty standard, but foreign to me, so I am learning how to wrangle these tools (they are pretty damn slick though).

My goal for this weekend is to move my main site (which currently has a module that barfs, so I have to figure that out), and to get all the bits and pieces lined up. Should be fun. And I expect that performance will be better in the long run (or at least completely under my own control).

Weird email problem – support useless

The joy of working in a large enterprise. 

We have been working with a web development partner for some new sites and moving some older sites to their hosting. 

Part of this means that we have been exchanging details on the web sites we are migrating.

Suddenly, these emails stopped coming in.

They aren’t spam. They have no executables. There is no malware. Just business oriented emails, originated from a credible and trustworthy source.

THe funny thing is, our contractor can send me emails that are not this (like “Did you get that PDF?”) fine.

But copy that block of text, and it is halted. Save that text to a PDF and email. And it is halted. He had to friggin fallback to faxing it to me to get this information to me.

Support – snort, is useless. Regardless of how much detail I put in the trouble ticket, or how many times I talked to them on the phone, there is no resolution.

Da fuq is up with that?

Web project part deux

If you have been following the saga, I have been working on a new, groovy and cool web community for my products.  Something pretty simple to start to build a community of practice.

I have complained in the past about the contractor we are using, who seems to do about 1/2 what I ask for, and then struggles with the big functionality components.  

I provided mockups, detailed use cases, “stories” for the key functions.  I have provided pixel perfect graphics and expansions on what I want, scratch that, NEED this community to look like and behave like.

Today, I got dressed down by our marcom person.  I am being too picky, and that these are merely stylistic issues.  Essentially that I need to back off on what I want.

I am not asking for miracles. I am not asking for Google like maturity. However I do know what I want, and I know how I want it to look. So, if I bitch that the graphic used for a button gets blurry because it doesn’t scale well when you increase the screen “magnification” it fucking matters to me. If I say that I don’t want text in the menu bars to have a shadow effect, it means I don’t want text in the menubar to have shadowing effects.

Am I being too demanding? I am the customer for once, and I expect it to be to my satisfaction. (of course, there is one HUGE piece of functionality that is almost 2 weeks late, without which, I can’t launch on 11/26) Grrrrrr.