Backups gone awry

I recently moved hosting providers for my sites. This in itself isnʼt particularly interesting. I had thought that they would automatically charge me for each month’s of service but, that turns out to not be the case. So, when my invoice for mid April came in, I didnʼt pay it which, resulted in my hosting being suspended. Again, this isnʼt particularly interesting. When I paid for this invoice, my server didnʼt quite come back correctly. This shouldnʼt have been an issue, all of my siteʼs content is backed up using tarsnap.

Restoring should have been a relatively simple process. I just needed to copy the tarsnap key to the new server, install tarsnap and then run the restore command. I checked 1Password for the key and, oh, crap the key wasnʼt there. I quickly searched my desktopʼs drive and didnʼt find anything. Shit. I guess I need to rebuild the site by hand. Luckily (and sadly) I havenʼt written very much recently. Everything Iʼve written prior to November of last year. The rest of the things Iʼve written were easy to pull out of Googleʼs cache.

While I was able to recover all of my writing, it wasnʼt without a big time commitment and pain. I also lost quite a number of old projects that I only had in the git repository on the server. This isn’t a huge loss as I wasnʼt doing anything with these repositories but, it still stings. The “moral” of the story is to test your backups in the worst possible scenario. Make sure that you everything that you need to do the restore.

Back to Basics

I read Ben Brook’s most recent thoughts on WordPress and it lead me to an important series of thinking that has culminated in what you see now, my return to using WordPress. My initial reaction to reading Ben’s post was denial. Why does it matter if I had a complicated cms setup for my writing? So what if I want to spend my time writing my own cms just to run Ruin? It doesn’t matter, does it? That is when it hit me, it does matter.

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to write my own cms. I don’t have a particularly good reason for why I want to do this, other than I enjoy writing, developing software and I have some ideas that I want to try out. All of this is fine but, that isn’t the reason that I have this site. I have this site because I intended to write on it. Looking at this what I’ve managed to get out his year makes me sad. Compared to previous years, my output has dropped considerably. Some of it is simply dropping the linked list style posts. I don’t think that those are particularly useful to people and I’ve stopped doing them.

There are also large gaps where I apparently stopped writing at all. Each one of these is a time where I was going to finish my cms, so I stopped writing until it was “done”. That point never actually arrived though. On multiple occasions, I’ve spent weeks writing my new blogging platform only to realize that it will be a very, very long time before its completion. On most of these occasions, I did have something that would be workable but was missing features that I would call essential. At these points, I’d revert to my previous cms, Jekyll, and continue my writing. I was never quite satisfied, so I would quickly return to tinkering with making my own.

It took reading Ben Brook’s post for me to step back far enough to evaluate the situation. This cycle is deadly to my writing. Furthermore, I’ve long had more projects that I wish to explore than I have time. Building blogging software is nowhere near the top of that list. It also isn’t the reason that I have this site. I have the site as a place for me to publish my writing, not as a place to fiddle with different cmses.

So, I’m doing exactly as he suggests, I’m using WordPress and utilizing the things that the community has created to fulfill all of my functionality desires. It took all of an hour to have all of the functionality that I wanted. Now its a just a matter of making it look the way that I want. Of course, I have to write my theme in PHP which, I don’t like but, I can just use _s. It a small price to pay to be able to concentrate on writing and building the tools I want instead of a CMS. I just need to remember that.

Disabling Analytics

Iʼve been quite pleased with how this site has been going. Its been growing slowly over time, for the past few months, 10% – 20% month over month. I think that’s pretty good but, obviously, that means my traffic levels are basically internet radiation. Given that is the current state of the site, Ben Brookʼs article, Death to Analytics really struck a chord with me. While I enjoy seeing my traffic grow, it doesnʼt provide me any benefit. Clearly, the ever-growing traffic hasʼt been motivating me to write more. In fact, it’s probably a detriment.

Since I know the articles that people come to my site to read, Iʼm inclined to write additional things along those lines. Unfortunately, over 60% of people come here for the various tutorials that Iʼve written. While I like that Iʼve written these and Iʼm glad that people are benefitting from them, I donʼt really want to keep writing them. I write them when I come across something that I have a hard time doing and when I think I have some knowledge that would be helpful to pass along. They arenʼt the reason that I write on this site. Feeling pressure to write more of them just keeps me from writing at all of this site and that makes me feel bad.

It also doesnʼt matter how many people are visiting my site. While I have enjoyed seeing the number of people that visit my site increase, I donʼt find people simply visiting my site particularly pleasing. Many of the people that have happened upon my little hobble probably werenʼt particularly pleased either. Knowing how many times this has occurred isnʼt something that I should care about and, if I really consider it, I donʼt care. What I really care about is making an impact on you. Of course, analytics canʼt tell me that. Only you can. I really appreciate when someone takes the time to start a discussion about one of my articles or let me know that they enjoy my site. It really made my day when one of you decided to send me some money to support the site. Iʼd love to have more of these things.

So, Iʼve removed the analytics from here. Iʼm going to do as I should have been doing anyways, writing about the things that interest me. Iʼd love to know your thoughts so, please let me know in whatever way you prefer. If you happen to love what I do here, consider [supporting me][2] in some way.

One Year of Ruin

In early February of last year, I purchased this shnazy domain, ruin.io. A few weeks after that, I launched the site. At first, it had no content at all. This was intentional, initially, I wanted to start a completely new site with none of my old content on it. Eventually, I realized that wasnʼt the way to go. I painstakingly copied all of the worthwhile content from my previous sites into this one and then redirect the old sites here. That was definitely the correct decision, Iʼve enjoyed writing on this site greatly and Iʼve really enjoyed watching the traffic grow.

Iʼm very happy to report that all of my top 5 most popular posts where things that I wrote in the last year specifically for ruin.io. Here they are:

  1. godoc with homebrew installed Go
  2. Parsing Nginx logs with logstash
  3. ownCloud in Docker
  4. Using a Mac Mini as a server
  5. 2 Ways Iʼm using Docker

I have very mixed feelings about these. On the one hand, these all have to do with my chosen profession. Iʼm glad that other people find my professional discoveries useful. On the other hand, Iʼm rather disappointed that none of my reviews show up here. I really like writing reviews of products that I enjoy using. I wish that would translate into something that people wish to read but, that’s clearly not the case. Also Iʼm a bit disappointed in both of the Docker posts. While I find Docker to be very interesting, Iʼm not actually using it that much anymore. It requires quite a bit of by in from other people you work with before it starts to show its value.

Iʼve had few notable surges of traffic over the last year. By far the biggest one came from the Docker weekly newsletter. They linked to 2 ways Iʼm using Docker in their weekly newsletter. This was by far my largest spike of traffic. It lasted about 2 and half days. By far the happiest moment for me was when Ben Brooks said something nice about my site:

That was easily the best part of my year for this site. It didn’t provide nearly the same amount of traffic that the Docker newsletter did but, having a writer that you enjoy reading say something nice about your own writing is quite rewarding. Unfortunately, I made lots of mistakes in the linked post which made me feel a little less happy about it.

During this past year, Iʼve changed blogging software nearly as often as Iʼve published a post. That is a fairly large exaggeration but, it feels that way sometimes. I havenʼt yet found a blogging tool that I really like. In the past year Iʼve switched off between Ghost and Jekyll. Neither one is perfect but, theyʼre better than anything else that Iʼve used. Iʼve settled for Jekyll recent mainly due to its flexibility. Iʼve also got a little bit of a unix nerd in me, so the fact that its a translation from one text format to another holds quite a bit of attraction for me. I like that my writing is simply text files which I could write a new tool to generate my site. At the same time, Jekyll is flexible enough that I think its unlikely that Iʼll ever need to do that. Other than slowness. I addressed the major cause of slow build times but, the building of the site will slow down gradually as I add additional content. Perhaps, by the time that build times become a problem, Iʼll find a better blogging tool. Until then, Jekyll fits my needs quite nicely.

Now for the hard part, the finances. Very few people discuss the business side of their sites but, recently, a few have begun to share their financials. I figure that I might as well join them. This may be easy for me as I havenʼt made a dime off of this site. In fact, it costs me a decent chunk of money to keep running. First off is the domain from Hover, an .io domain is $49.99 a year. I swear that it was $80 for the first year but, I could be mistaken. Then I have the ssl certificate. While it is not required, I value your privacy so, I make every use tls when connecting to my site. I purchase my certificates from Gandi.net mainly because I donʼt think you should use startssl. Then there is the hosting, since I like to be able to control everything about my site, I host it on a vps from Linode. I have a 2 cpu 2gb of ram server for $20/month. This is very much overkill for the amount of traffic that I receive but, I like having all of the available cpu. I also use Cloud.typography for great web fonts. Since my site is very small Iʼm on their smallest plan for $99/year. This means that the total cost of my main site is $404.99/year. Now I also run a server for Discourse although it is not being used. This is another $20 a month for the server and $16 for the ssl certificate. This is an additional $256/year. The total to run this site is $660.99/year. While I could make things cheaper in some ways, I like the way things are set up now. In the coming weeks, I will be announcing my plan to recoup some of the expenses associated with running this site.

Iʼm really surprised that you made it this far. I really doubt that anyone actually reads these things but thanks for doing it! Iʼve really enjoyed writing this site and I plan to continue writing here for many years.

My Desk

I recently made quite a large change in my life, I moved 1400 miles. I thought that it would be good to document the way my workspace was setup.

Ikea's Signum wire management

I chose the nextDesk terra as my desk. It comes highly recommended by a couple of other people as well. Its an excellent desk. The price is somewhat obscene though but, everything about the desk is great. The desktop is beautiful and seems quite durable. the one downside that Iʼve experienced is that the table top rocks a little bit when you are doing things like typing. Iʼm not sure if this is because I had the desk on carpet or if its a common problem. If you are looking for it, its quite visible while you work but, i havenʼt been bothered by it much in practice. As for options, I selected the power management as well as the keyboard tray. I would recommend that everyone gets the power management, it’s really handy and really helps you keep the cord clutter to a minimum. Although I didnʼt get it, the vanity cover would have been very helpful. I ended up getting the Signum from ikea. It’s worked out really well. It’s really handy for cleaning up cord, there’s all sorts of places for you to wrap cords around. It also is a handy place to strap hard drives to. As for the keyboard tray, it’s either desperately needed or not at all depending on what else youʼre getting with your desk.

From the description, I found next deskʼs monitor arms to be very disappointing. At the time, they could only hold 2 22″ monitors next to each other. Furthermore, the positioning was it adjustable. It looks like they have upgraded the option considerably since I last looked but, I still don’t think that I would I order them. I like the ones that I did order much better, I picked the Ergotron LX Dual Stacking monitor arms. While they do say stacking, they work just as well side by side and they give additional positioning options. As you have probably noticed, I donʼt actually use two monitors, I use one monitor and then position my MacBook next to it. The laptop tray to make this happen is included with the monitor arms. In order to maintain proper ergonomic positioning, youʼll either need the keyboard tray or have monitor arms.

As you can probably tell, I use an Apple Thunderbolt Display. I have strongly mixed feelings about it. It is extremely expensive for a monitor but, getting a 27″ color calibrated monitor from another vendor is only $200-$300 cheaper. While that is a meaningful difference, the Thunderbolt display also acts as a dock for your Mac. Given the severe shortage of ports on Appleʼs recent products, it’s really handy to have all of the extra ports available. On the other hand, the Thunderbolt display is covered with an extremely reflective sheet of glass. If you are in a room lit by sunlight and the room is painted with a light color, it’s likely that youʼll have a significant issue with glare. This is much more pronounced when it is displaying something dark. For this reason, I have a special profile for iTerm when it’s running on the Thunderbolt display, I use the Solarized Light theme to cut down on the glare. Overall, I really like this monitor.

My inputs

For input devices, I use an Ergodox and an Apple Magic Trackpad. The Ergodox is the best keyboard that Iʼve ever used or seen. It certainly isnʼt elegant (although I think it has a certain nerdy charm to it) but, it feels great to type on it. As for the Magic Trackpad, OS X has so many gestures built in, it just feels natural to use a trackpad with a Mac. Since the Ergodox is a split keyboard, the best way that Iʼve found to position it is to place the two sides of the keyboard a shoulder-width apart. That way, Iʼm able to hold my arms and wrists straight while typing. This leaves a gap in between the two halves which I use to put my Magic Trackpad. Iʼll be writing a full review of the Ergodox soon. Purchasing an Ergodox is a little bit difficult but Massdrop has kits available occasionally.

Iʼve been very happy with my desk and setup. Given the rather large life change that Iʼve taken, I think its likely that Iʼll have to make some changes to my setup.