Well, it’s been a long time since my last post. Did I spend the rest of the Autumn and most of the Winter sleeping?
Of course not – at least I didn’t sleep any more than I normally do. I did engage in a major overhaul of some of my home systems though, which started with me deciding to ditch my long obsolete Windows Home Server (thanks for that Microsoft, another one of you “next best things” that turned out to be digital cul-de-sac) and replace it with a FreenNAS system. This set off an avalanche of events with led me finally install Plex (something which I had been planning to do for a while) then to update my [Tvheadend[(https://tvheadend.org/) server and Kodi (formerly XBMC) clients. In the process I finally got HD DTV recording working in a way which was usable, with 5.1 as a thrown in bonus, something I was never able to achieve before. I just hope it survives the next upgrade of Ubuntu (I am not hopeful). I’m missing a lot out along the way but this magical mystery tour concluded with me trying out a free upgrade to Windows 10 on my main desktop, which was running Windows 7. While it has many frustrations (of course it’s not as great as Microsoft claim it is, nothing ever is), Windows 10 isn’t the catastrophe that was Windows 8, which didn’t get past a preview version for me. So I was able (with some trepidation) to make the transition. The other option would have been to move to Linux for my main desktop, which I would like to do, but I still don’t think I’m ready for that yet. I am very impressed with Ubuntu MATE though, and that is now my distro of choice for messing around with Linux. In the whole process I learnt a few things, such as running jails on FreeNAS, some of which I may document here if I find the time – which I didn’t at the time I was setting up the server.
This site has also moved – whether the move will prove to be temporary or permanent at the moment is unclear. In a previous post I mentioned that the Shaarli bookmarking application stopped saving bookmarks. It did prove to be an issue with the modsecurity configuration on my shared hosting account. After initially being helpful my hosting company made it clear that they weren’t going to change those settings, effectively making Shaarli useless. I couldn’t find another self-hosted solution that was satisfactory so I switched to Pinboard (and very good it is too). Again due to other pressures I didn’t report that here. Around the same time the Microsoft Access application I used to maintain the ink and other collections and which could update the relevant WordPress pages automatically stopped working properly as well. Because the Access application used some code from elsewhere that I found incomprehensible I couldn’t diagnose the problem with certainly, but I strongly suspected it was also due to modsecurity. While I can understand my shared hosting companies position on maintaining security it finally convinced me that shared hosting was not optimal for me, and I would rather try to maintain my own security and not suffer the risk of important functionality of the site suddenly failing as it did in this case. So this experience prompted me to move the site back to the VPS host that I used when the site was originally set up and which I had kept just for development purposes. Even this proved to be more complicated than I expected, not least because I needed to upgrade the operating system on my VPS, and in doing this found that the web server configuration I used before wouldn’t work now. After a couple of abortive attempts things now appear to be running okay, but I can’t rule out a switch back if the new server fails. I haven’t tried to resurrect Shaarli, simply because Pinboard is more than satisfactory, but the Access application has magically started working again with the new server, confirming my belief (as much as I can be certain) that the settings on the shared host were the problem.
One useful byproduct of the move back to the VPS is that I was able to implement HTTPS across the site, using the Letsencrypt service. Getting rid of the mixed content messages was a bit of a challenge but I’ve achieved A+ on the Qualys SSL Server Test, which I am quite pleased about, hence the green padlock at image at the top of the site. There may be unwanted side effects yet to surface, but only time will tell.
While I am hopeful that everything is running okay for the moment, if problems do arise and I have to switch back to the shared host, the first sign will be that this and subsequent hosts will disappear. If that happens, you can think of me going back to the metaphorical drawing board.
To conclude, one other annoyance is the impending retirement of the Mailchimp Social plugin which is used on this site. It handles reposting to Facebook and Twitter, and does it in such a way that the reposts are linked back to the original post. I’m not sure at this stage how I will replace that functionality, but this and the links post which will follow will probably be the last ones to use it. I started this post with one piece of obsoleted software and ended with another – how appropriate