Server woes

Broken Time 1
Broken Time 1
Broken Time 1/e_anka

Sorry to those of you whose emails I’m not receiving.

Unless I’m receiving them and you’re in the smaller group of people who can’t receive my emails.

Unless you’re in a non-intersecting group of people who are connecting to an older server (in which case you can’t see this post).

Unless you’re in a possibly non-intersecting group who couldn’t get to this website because of various server configuration problems.

Basically I’m rebuilding my hosting and that has led to wide-spread disruption. I’ll post an update when I think it’s mostly fixed. I think I’m 80% of the way there. UPDATE: I think it’s fixed.

It’s really frustrating and part of me wishes I went with a well supported WordPress hosted provider. But I do run some non-WP projects on the side so I like to have a server or two around for testing.

Fix Google Analytics Spam

Bottom line up front: Prevent spam in your Google Analytics with only 2 filters

Google Analytics is the most widely used web analytics service today so it is a target-rich environment for spammers to get eyeballs. They hope that web masters will see their url and check out where the traffic is coming from. The reality is there is no new traffic, it’s all bots manipulating the system.

Google Analytics spam is only bad for the site owner. Users never see the consequences, but the owner’s stats are full of junk, devaluing the data.

After long neglect I’m busy behind-the-scenes with this and other websites. My painful reality is bad guys hitching a ride on my corner of the web. Take care of your neighbourhood unless you want to it to go bad.

Change iPhone Backup Location

I have a 64GB iPhone 5S but my MacBook Air only has a 128GB SSD which is not enough to regularly hold a backup of my phone. iCloud offers 5GB free online space so I have to pick and chose what gets synchronised via iCloud.

I decided to move my iTunes iPhone backup location to a 2GB external drive called Seagate1. This is a really easy process for Mac and Windows users.

There is no way to change that within iTunes. I am sure there must be tools you can get online to configure it but I used the Terminal to create a symbolic link to make iTunes to use the external drive.

By default iTunes stores iPhone backups in ~/Library/Applications Support/MobileSync/Backup on Macs and \AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup on Windows. If you already have a backup you wish to keep, move the Backup folder to the new backup location on your external drive. Otherwise rename the existing Backup folder to BackupOld.

The symlink links the folder from ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup to a backup directory on my external drive – in my case /Volumes/Seagate1/iOSBackups/Backup.

Mac OS X
Open Terminal either by searching for Terminal in spotlight or use Finder to navigate tothe Utilities folder inside your Applications folder.

Terminal will normally open in your home folder with a $ prompt.

Type the following command create the symlink, change Seagate1 to your external drive name.

ln -s /Volumes/Seagate1/iOSBackups/Backup ~/Library/Application\ Support/MobileSync/Backup

That’s it! Connect your iPhone and back it up.

Windows

Open the Command Prompt window by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, and then clicking Command Prompt.

Type the following command to create the symlink ,change SEAGATE1 to your external drive letter.

mklink /J "%APPDATA%\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup" "[Your External HDD]:\iOSBackups\Backup"

That’s it! Connect your iPhone and back it up.

ZagZ redesigned

Symbol home from hands isolated on white
Symbol home from hands isolated on white
Symbol home from hands isolated on white

During a hasty server relocation I discovered that the database that stores ZagZ.com was slightly corrupted. Not badly enough to affect the performance of the site. But enough that the backups didn’t notice it and reported themselves happily complete.

The actuality was that the posts and comments tables where horribly damaged and it was only while trying to restore the backups that I discovered how hosed those tables were. Now if this site was my main focus I would not be running it the way I was. But it is my little plaything so them’s the way the cookies be crumblin’.

So I’ve recovered all the posts, and most of the comments. There are definitely missing comments, but they will take more time than it’s worth to find them and reintegrate them in to the new site.

Meanwhile I’ve redesigned ZagZ.com and am reworking the backend so that it is the starting point for all my online identity.

Let me know if you stumble across something more broken and lost than normal.

Don’t self host your website

Gesture 2 by Sanja Gjenero, Zagreb, Croatia
Gesture 2 by Sanja Gjenero, Zagreb, Croatia
Gesture 2 by Sanja Gjenero, Zagreb, Croatia

Should you use a free website from Tumblr or WordPress or Wix for the early days of ?your indie film? You should register on those free services to grab your brand name. But I wouldn?t go live with that for anything other than a teaser or short.

What about getting your own hosting account and running something like WordPress self-hosting? Things have changed, don?t host your own software or blog.

If your film is a short you can select the free hosting from Tumblr, WordPress, Wix or any of those free top level domains. However if you are going to make more than one short film or a bigger project, you should get a top level domain at least in your production company name. So if your making ?My Edgy Short? for the ProdCo Philberts Phantastic Philms you should register a domain name PhilbertsPhantasticPhilms (.com or whatever).

For a feature film or series you should register the brand name you are promoting MyEdgyIndieFilm (.com or whatever).

Until now the best advice was to then get a hosting provider for up to $10 per month and self host your website on that. WordPress was probably the easiest software to self host with and most hosting providers will install it for you. However I no longer recommend doing that.

Instead you should should pay WordPress.com or Tumblr.com or Wix to remove the ads and point your domain to their hosted solutions. Why? Automatic security updates! When you self-host software someone has to make sure it?s constantly up to date, because bad-guys are always looking for insecure sites to hack or worse to host their phishing scams from. Even if you are a competent sysadmin or website admin you have better things to do with your life than checking for updates all the time. No it?s not hard to do, but every minute you spend not making your movie, promoting your movie or aggregating your audience is time wasted.

So don?t buy plain generic or typical web-hosting to run your website. You wouldn?t set up your own web-server, so why would you run your own software? Pay a big player and point your own domain to their infrastructure. It will handle attacks better as well as scale sudden popularity.

Another solution is search on ?Managed WordPress Hosting?. Read about the companies that?specialise?in that space.

Photo credit Gesture 2 by Sanja Gjenero, Zagreb, Croatia

Address Book Related Names Completer Soon

I store all phone numbers and email addresses in the Address Book or Contacts app of the devices I use.

  • On Apple Mac OS X it?s the Address Book app
  • On IOS it?s the Contacts app
  • On Android it?s Contacts
  • On my webmail it?s Google?s Contacts

I also add spouse and child names where I know them. For members of my extended family, I have cards for the spouses, parents, and children. That way I get birthday reminders automatically in my calendar.

None of these apps have the smarts to make it easy to link a spouse card with a contact without a lot of repeat data entry. Well, the IOS app lets me select another card, but that?s it.

I?m alpha testing some code that can either create contact cards for spouses, children and parents who lack contact cards or offer to create the?reciprocal link if the cards are already there.

The scrips work across Gmail, Google Contacts, Apple Address Book and the Contacts apps in IOS and Android. Actually they are a series of scripts native to each environment. Currently each script is stand alone software rather than a plugin for existing apps.

Each platform calls the Related People by their own name. Related Names, Related People, Relationships, whatever!

If this is a problem you?d like a solution to, let me know in the comments below. I?ll let you in on the beta program soon.

Choosing a new laptop

My main workhorse is an eMachines eM250 10.1? netbook. All my email, calendar and important software works via the cloud so I can use any machine with a web-browser. I learned that lesson in the Great London Laptop Crash of 2008.

However there are some items I use local storage for:

  • genealogy research
  • music, video, podcasts and other media
  • ebooks, PDF?s, and reference material
  • film and TV project producer files (budgets, head shots, contracts)
  • software development and scripting (especially for iPad apps)
  • GPG signing and encryption keys

Maybe the NBN will give me the speed to store all that stuff on the cloud, but for now it is a lot of data that represents a significant part of my work and home life.

I?ve advocated using cheap, easily?replaceable?devices for most common business and personal needs. Avoiding Windows has reduced at least 80% of my malware risk and 95% of my support requirements.

I abandoned podcasts two-and-a-half years ago after I moved to Ubuntu. Podcast catching and portability is one of the areas where seamless integration across multiple OS?s does not yet exist. I can re-subscribe and re-download (where available) the podcasts I enjoyed. But I never got around to it. Plus I no longer had a daily 90-120 minute round-trip commute to listen to them.

Now my eMachine eM-250 is showing it?s age. It?s been dropped and abused, the left arrow key now longer works, the Alt+Tab combination is not reliable, the battery lasts about 50 minutes and the power cord connector is so loose it only charges about half the time.

I also need to move my iPad app development environment to newer hardware than the 2007 Mac Mini I?m currently using. So I see three choices

  1. replace my netbook with a new $300 netbook and buy a new or refurbed mac mini
  2. buy a refurbished 13? Macbook for about $600-$700
  3. buy a new Macbook Air for $1099

Apple is announcing the iPhone next week, hopefully they?ll refresh the Air range at the same time in which case I may just buy the Air. If they don?t refresh the range, I?m reluctant to start lugging around another 13? laptop so option 2 is not ideal. Let?s see what happens next week.

Domain name dispute scam

I received this email ? up front warning it?s a scam:

(If you are not in charge of this please transfer this email to your President or appropriate person, thanks)
Dear President,
We are the department of Asian Domain registration service in china, have something to confirm with you. We formally received an application on?April 18,?2012. One company which self-styled ?Daess Investment, Inc? were applying to register ?zagz? as Network Brand and following domain names:

zagz.asia
zagz.cn
zagz.com.cn
zagz.com.tw
zagz.hk
zagz.in
zagz.net.cn
zagz.org.cn
zagz.tw
After our initial checking, we found the name were similar to your company?s, so we need to check with you whether your company has authorized that company to register these names. If you authorized this, we will finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize, please let us know within 7 workdays, so that we will handle this issue better. Out of the time limit we will unconditionally finish the registration for ?Daess Investment, Inc?.

Best Regards,

Sam Yang

Registration Dept.
Tel:?+862885915586??||? Fax:?+862885912116
Address:8/F XiYu building No,52 JinDun Road,QingYang District,Chengdu City,China.

I didn?t think people would fall for this, but then a client sent me a similar email asking that I action it on their behalf.

The fake registration warning it trying to scare you into paying inflated registration fees to register your brand domain in a bunch of foreign top level domains. Now if you have the budget, reach and vision for that kind of world domination, by all means register them all ? just don?t do it with this spamming scammer.