Scribbles and ditherings

Working it out

And the wind that brought me down

Cannot stay

Making things takes work and I feel myself wanting to make something but unable to focus long enough to do the work. I have so many ideas and I stumble on execution. I feel like if I could turn the corner on that I could make something of this last quarter.

My Current Stack Part 1

How did I get here?

For years I ran a bog standard setup. I changed hosting companies a couple of times but it was all pretty much the same. Shared hosting that provided PHP and MySQL running Wordpress sites for the most part. I dabbled with Drupal and maybe some other CMS packages but that was about it.

Some time, I don’t know how long ago, I decided I wanted more flexibility. I wanted access to the OS and the ability to try out things outside whatever box the shared hosting put me in. I did some looking around and landed on Digital Ocean. I think I was drawn to them over the other options based primarily on 2 or 3 things.

They had plans in my price range. This is essential. They could have the most awesome setup ever but I can only put so much towards these kind of efforts in good conscience. I get all kinds of ideas that never go all that far and I’m fine with it as long as I don’t blow a bunch of cash on these things. Finding out I could spin up a droplet at a lower cost than I was paying for shared hosting was huge. I could make the move, and save money instead of spending more. (Over time I have ended up being pretty close price wise to what I was spending on the shared hosting. I added some more features so I’m about even with where I was before.)

The second thing that pushed me towards DO was their documentation. Long, long before I considered this move, whenever I had issues with Fedora or CentOS and googled those issues, I found answers quite often in Digital Ocean docs. It was crazy how often this happened and this made me have a very positive view of them in my mind. I knew I’d be able to run my preferred OS. I knew they’d have a lot of good documentation on how to get things done. That’s probably the biggest motivator outside of price.

Those two things were 90% of my decision. There may have been other things like posts on hacker news or something that helped me make my choice but I’ve been very happy with it since I made the switch. I was able to migrate all my stuff over, take care of the OS myself, install what I want and do it all very economically.

The one issue I ran into was trying to run 5 wordpress sites on my droplet was not fantastic. MySQL would get shut down on a regular basis when the machine ran out of ram. If my primary goal were keeping those sites alive, I’d have probably moved back to my old model. But that wasn’t the case so I started trying to dig in and understand what was happening. I was slowly making progress but I realized not too far into the process that WP was overkill for a lot of what I had going on. I didn’t really need all that it brought to the table for sites that had little traffic and not a ton of content. (I say little traffic but all my public facing content on WP was getting constant hostile traffic. This uses resources even though it’s no one viewing the site.)

This lead to 2 realizations on my part. The first was that the shared hosting was a better value than I had thought. They had kept a lot of WP sites up and chugging along with zero issues for a great price. When it was up to me on my own I was having a lot more down time than I’d ever had in that environment.

The second was that I didn’t need comments or a ton of other features that WP brought and so this took me to trying out static sites. That was what finally solved my resource issues for good. It wasn’t only the resources, but that was a lot of it. The other facet to this was GDPR. As I was learning more about GDPR and how to deal with it, I realized for my own sites I had no good reason for analytics, cookies, etc. Going to a static site made everything super clean and easy with that regard.

So this is the first part of my stack - a droplet on Digital Ocean. I love having it and it’s worked out really well for me.

Building and Deploying the Blog

Using sr.ht's build system for my blog

I use sourcehut for version control and storing my code. That includes this blog.

My workflow until today was pretty simple. I make changes to the blog, commit and push those changes to the remote repo and then I would build the blog and use rsync to copy changes over to my host. I have everything set up to do this on the two main machines I use. It’s really pretty easy.

But I keep seeing articles about people who use github actions to make stuff happen and this made me think that I could do the same over at sourchut. I figured I’d need a combination of builds and dispatch. So I started with builds first.

I decided to use a Fedora image. I did so just because this is the environment running on my server and the system that I know best. But really, it isn’t necessary for it to match the server. My laptop runs MacOS and works fine for building the site. Any OS that can run hugo will work. But for a first run I figured I’d go with something I know.

The steps are simple, pull over the code, run hugo, rsync the public directory contents that get created. This took me a little time as I had to sort out what ssh key I needed, how to set up the commands properly, etc. I plan on doing a full write up of the whole process with code and what not.

I didn’t need to worry about dispatch. Builds will automatically run for commits to sourcehut git repos if there is a .build.yml file so I just put my config for the build there and it just works. Super nice.

This post will be my first where the blog is updated via the new method.

Boldog Kar√°csonyt

Merry Christmas

We are blessed to have our whole family back together this Christmas. Our girls were able to fly in from the states and we all have some special time to spend together. I hope this Christmas as wonderful and full of love for you as it is for us.

ipad

don't want to forget this quote

“Replacing a general purpose computer with a jacked-up surveillance sensor package is not my idea of solving the problem of mobile computing.” - Stanley Lieber on trying to use an ipad pro to replace his laptop.

Budapest

Budapest is such a great place.

I spent time last night and this afternoon in Budapest with family and friends. We don’t get downtown as much as we should. I think this every time I am there.

Winter weather has finally arrived and it feels cold out but the atmosphere this time of year is so great. We visited some of the Christmas markets and just had a fun time walking around. We helped some tourists find a place they were trying to get to, enjoyed the beautiful architecture and art of the city and just had a good time.

I feel so fortunate to get to live here. I have not been to a city yet that I think matches Budapest in terms of beauty and accessibility. For example Paris is great but it’s also so incredibly massive, congested, etc. Although I feel like over the 8 years we’ve been here, Budapest is less and less overlooked. And I’m sure before we were here it was even more chill.

For example at the Christmas market today, it’s become a lot “nicer” and busier and in some ways I miss when it didn’t feel quite so organized and intentional. But that’s how things change. Later this month we plan to visit some of the Christmas markets in Vienna. That’s also a lot of fun. That’s another pretty awesome city, though I think Budapest has it beet because of parliament and the way things are arranged around the Danube. But that’s just my opinion.

Movement

I moved to a new droplet in a new location.

For a long time I’ve done things the old way. I know how to work with a server, move files, set up Apache, etc. I’ve not been too current for sure.

I did move off shared hosting a while back to a VPS but then I’ve just basically treated it like the old shared hosting account, just without cpanel. I ssh in, set up my stuff, run my updates, etc. It’s Fedora, same as my desktop so pretty nice. The motivation was two fold. I save money using Digital Ocean over what I paid Blue Host. And I have more control so I can mess around with different things I want to try.

To be honest the saving money part did not turn out to be so significant. Resource constraints kept pressing me and adding resources pushed me much closer to what I paid before. It was great for learning. I learned some more tools for managing my system, I migrated to Hugo to relieve the pressure of running a bunch of Wordpress instances. But if I were to look at it purely from the money side, Blue Host was actually providing good value. I had a ton of Wordpress sites working really well. My droplet couldn’t handle it. Now if I had better skills maybe it could but I opted to go a different route.

That said, the more flexibilty and control is a hands down win so I’m sticking with what I have. Today I had fun moving my stuff to a new droplet. That was super easy. I made a snapshot, created a new droplet with the snapshot, moved my dns to point to the new one and then destroyed the old one. It just took a few minutes. Pretty cool.

From what I can tell the snapshots are not portable to other hosting providers. That’s too bad. I can move them around within Digital Ocean which is pretty sweet. I guess the solution to making my whole system more portable would probably be something like docker. I have started learning how to work with docker and podman so I guess that might be my next step.

Poetry

It's not good but it's mine.

I started writing poetry for myself in high school. Like many things that I had the time for back then, as I got older and life got busier, it dropped by the side for the most part. It’s been in my head, fragments of things, but not much put to paper.

I really enjoyed reading poetry in school and would write things to emulate the poetry I really liked. My junior year I wrote a pretty long poem about the crucifixion of Christ and I did a whole gloss with scriptural references, sort of like what I’d seen with “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. That was probably the longest and most disciplined poetry I’ve every written. A lot of the rest was typical teen angst written in a song lyric kind of format.

I’m starting to write some of it down again . I’ll be posting things here once I feel pieces are finished.

I’m not kidding about it not being good. I don’t have the background or the discipline. It’s more therapeutic just to get it out of my head and written down. It’s fun for me but probably not for anyone else unless they have really low standards when it comes to writing. Really. It’s an E. E. Cummings kind of free form thing without the genius.

Music and Books

A nice long weekend.

Friday was All Saints day and that meant a 3 day weekend. I was reasonably productive in terms of some projects around the house. But some of the best parts were spent with the new Jimmy Eat World album and the Foreigner Saga by C.J. Cherryh.

I really enjoy the new album. The books I had started back in the 90s when the series was new. I had dropped off after the second book I think. I don’t remember for sure. But I started over a while back and I’ve been enjoying it very much. I just started “Conspirator” the 10th book. I’ve always enjoyed Cherryh’s writing. I don’t remember what I read of his first. I want to say it was the Chanur books. But it could been Union Alliance or some other work of hers.

Sometimes I need breaks because she tends to keep the tension ratcheted up constantly but I’m always pulled back in. I think she is a gifted story teller.

Anyway it was a very nice weekend, having that luxury of two wonderful things in this world, music and books.

Friends

Friends are a real blessing

I really like this picture. I think it looks pretty cool but more importantly it reminds me of a pretty special evening.

St Stephens Basilica in Budapest

It was a time of saying goodbye which is something we do a lot in our line of work. I don’t know if it’s more or less than more traditional careers or ways of living, but being expats and missionaries it feels like people come and go at a more rapid pace than when we lived in the US with “normal” jobs.

Regardless, we do it a lot and it can get old but this night was rather special. It was saying goodbye done rather well. Or at least better than I had seen it done in my experience so far. I think it had a lot to do with the quality of the people present, the depth of their character, their walk with God and their experience. When I look at this photo it reminds me of how when we got up to the rooftop where we met I was in awe of just the size and depth of the Basilica. I’d never been so close to the top before without being far below on the ground. And now when I see the image it reminds of the depth of my friends and what a special evening that was.