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Thu, 11 Sep 2014

Simplifying an Online Presence

It is amazing how many small commitments and fragments of an online presence you can collect over years of being involved in different projects and user groups. I've ended up hosting planets, user group sites, submission forms (and other scripts), managing twitter announcement accounts, pushing tar balls (don't ask) and running (and owning) more domains than I could ever really want or do anything useful with. After an initial audit of how difficult it'd be to move some of my public servers I've realised that something has to change.

I've decided to take a deliberate step back and reduce my involvement in a number of projects, and my general online footprint, to levels that are comfortable and maintainable while leaving me enough time to get involved in some newer projects, technology and groups that are relevant to me. Although I slowly began the cleaning process a few months ago, initially by transferring domains and in some cases even deleting websites and removing their DNS, there's still quite a lot of cruft to trim.

Like most full time sysadmins my personal systems, which thanks to Debian and Bytemark have been in use for many years and in place release upgrades, are a lot more disorderly, and manual, than I'd accept at work or even in my home lab. A clean up like this seems to be the perfect time to move to newer, more appropriate, platforms like nginx and puppet modules (yes I have puppet code that predates modules) and replace custom nagios wrapping with serverspec and such. Some of the evolved configurations with dozens of complicated edge cases are going to be difficult to migrate and I'm trying to bring myself to just kill a number of them, even if it leaves certain links now dead. This site (unixdaemon.net) will probably be one of the biggest victims of this.

What have I learned from this audit and clean up? First, don't make open ended commitments. As an example I run one site for a group that I've not even attended for over 6 years. Secondly I no longer have the free time I once did and so it has to count for more. I need to get more proactive about handing things off that I'm no longer passionate about.

Posted: 2014/09/11 00:24 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Fri, 15 Aug 2008

UnixDaemon.net gitweb - because everyone else has one!

I'm not exactly a demanding user of version control systems so I've not been heavily motivated to ditch my personal SVN repo (which I don't use as much as I should) and plunge in to the shiny new distributed ones. However (and this is my excuse) I've recently wanted to put a handful of my own Nagios plugins under a public VCS. While we use a number of the checks at work I don't necessarily want the local changes to be made immediately public so I thought I'd take this as an opportunity to have a fiddle with git.

I've now got my own gitweb instance (because I'm a tech sheep) and while it's pretty easy to install and setup it was oddly difficult to track down how to modify anything beyond the basics (the answer? Hack the feature hash from the config file - eg $feature{'snapshot'}{'default'} = [];). First impressions of git? I've got a lot to learn. The basic commands were easy enough to pick up but I am very conscious of how little of its power I'm using.

Posted: 2008/08/15 16:09 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Tue, 20 Feb 2007

Another Year and the Closing of a Decade

So, another full year of my life is over and done. As years go it's not been the best one. Family troubles, time (and money, lots of money) spent dealing with lawyers and the passing of my grandfather, someone I saw nearly daily and often find myself thinking about, have all conspired to stop that annoying smile I often get. This post is a little more indulgent than usual but it's my birthday and I'm full of cold caffine and napalmesque curry - so tough!

This year isn't just another birthday though, it also marks the end of my first decade as a dutifully employed member of the public. From my start as an engineering apprentice (which I never finished) at age 16 to senior sysadmin at 27 - by way of financial data provider, trade support, software developer and sysadmin - I've racked up the companies (and to a lesser extent the industries) and learned more than I ever wanted to about how businesses work - and just as often don't.

Looking back, the last ten years have been a great ride. I've written for magazines, tech reviewed books by the publishers who fill my shelves, tried public speaking (we're all allowed mistakes :)), organised the kind of events I want to go to, met the people behind the Free and Open Source movements (if you ever get the chance to have dinner with Maddog Hall take it! He's amazing to talk with), coded on snowy beaches, hacked while squinting from sun shine as far from home as I can physically get without falling off the planet, and most of all conversed, met and worked with some of the nicest, funniest and most talented people I could ever hope to meet. It's a cliche but a true one, if you do what you love you never have to work a day.

I'm not actually thirty yet; although my lack of hair growth would seem to disagree. So, what's next on the list of things to try? I have no idea at the moment but you know it's going to be fun ambeling down which ever path draws me in.

To the future. Thanks for reading.
-- Dean Wilson

Posted: 2007/02/20 04:53 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Sun, 07 Jan 2007

Mail Box Stress and Joe Jobbing

If you've tried to email me recently then you may have noticed that my mail server has been down a lot (or just that I've not responded). Over the last 10 days Unixdaemon.net was used as the reply-to and bounce addresses in a LOT of spam, not an uncommon form of a Joe Job but an annoying one one the less.

The last couple of weeks have been manic and so, while it was a little drastic, the easiest way to prevent my inbox from flooding (and I mean flooding) was to turn my SMTP server off. And add some countermeasures that'll stop this biting me quite so hard in the future. It's back up and running now (and I'm not getting any more bounces) - so overkill can work.

Posted: 2007/01/07 20:17 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Mon, 20 Nov 2006

Small Redesign

I've re-written bits of the category and archive Blosxom plugins to output CSS friendly markup. Which I've added some CSS to. The changes are mostly non-intrusive (and most of my traffic comes through RSS readers anyway) but if I've painfully broken anything for your browser of choice drop me a note.

Posted: 2006/11/20 20:05 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Mon, 02 Oct 2006

Closing the 2005/2006 PiP

Each year I put a small todo list up on Unixdaemon and see how many of the goals I can meet. The 2005/2006 Pragmatic Investment Plan is now closed so it's time for a quick look back.

First up we have the writing of articles. I'll come to this in a separate post as I'm still not happy with what I want to say. Training courses are an easy one. I did two main courses and I can't remember much from either of them. The mistake is a common one, I didn't actually implement any of the things I'd learned when I got back to the office so a lot of it didn't stick. I've stored enough that I can find my way around both Exim and PostgreSQL but I can't help thinking they could have been more useful to me if I'd have got my hands dirty when I got back from them. Still, I meet the numbers.

Conferences are always fun and this years is no exception, apart from EuroOSCON which I thought was a way too expensive let down. I didn't go to this years (and I won't be going to any in the near future) so I spent the money on a house instead.

It wasn't quite that bad but it's not on my list of recommended conferences and its pricing is... interesting. I missed LUGRadio (ill), the UKUUG events (personal commitments) and the 2005 London Perl Workshop (on-call) but I did get to my first YAPC in years, and Birmingham PM did a great job, a d.construct, which had a great audience and corridor track, and the highlight of the conferences (again) FOSDEM. Which was great. I'll be booking next years tickets RSN. Honest. Not a day before like this years.

And on to the books, I've discovered while completing this list that the number of books I read from start to finish has dropped significantly. I now either buy a book for the last half-a-dozen advanced chapters, borrow an introduction to a topic from a friend or just sub to a planet or two and a lot of blogs. I've reached the tipping point where most of my technical information comes directly from my peers blogs rather than via printed paper. And with the exception of the Pragmatic Programmers line most tech publishers are less than interesting these days. I want one with some system admin topics that are actually worth reading. Not yet another command reference.

Lastly we have events. I dove in at the start of the year and ended up involved in organising nine different tech events (five were me working alone) in the first six months of the year. And then a change in my personal circumstances ate all my time and I've done pretty much nothing since. I've learned that I do enjoy organising them but I don't like being a wingman. It's too much like work when I have to organise with someone else. I do have plans for a London Linux Workshop next year. But I said that this year.

So do I pass? Sorta, a lot of last minute pushing and a number of mostly done tasks gets me a C+ this year. I'm not starting another PiP just yet. I need to think about possibly doing two things at once instead, one for longer term goals (of which I don't really have any) and one for more iterative tasks, which'll give better feedback with shorter delays.

Posted: 2006/10/02 22:32 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Wed, 19 Jul 2006

FireFox2 UnixDaemon.net MozSearch Plugin

I ended up writing a number of Unofficial Mycroft Searches for FireFox1 and Mozilla and now I've started to have a play with FireFox 2 Beta 1, one of the FireFox features I thought I'd investigate first is the new MozSearch search plugins.

I've not dug too deeply yet (I'm on training so I'm playing in the breaks) but I have pulled a basic search together for UnixDaemon. If you're running a FireFox2 Beta head over to the UnixDaemon.net main site and then click the downwards pointing arrow on the search box on the top right. Click 'Add "Search UnixDaemon.net"' and it should then be a valid search option. And unlike mycroft in FireFox 1 this time you can actually delete search plugins without editing your profile directories!

Posted: 2006/07/19 12:35 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Sun, 14 May 2006

Event Signup Emails - What I do with them

I've had a couple of people ask what I do with peoples emails addresses once they've sent me a request to sign-up/register. In an attempt to prove I'm not making millions with them (but if you know a way, I'm open... :)) I thought I'd document the reasons I ask for email addresses and what I do with them afterwards.

The reasons I ask for them are pretty simple: so I can adjust the venue if we need somewhere with a bigger capacity. The original Frameworks night venue held 40 people. We ended up with 207 people in the audience. Without knowing how many people were going to turn up I'd have turned a lot of unhappy people away.

Secondly, some venues require a list of attendees before they'll let anyone in. If we go somewhere that does this I give them names but not email addresses. This way they can check you off their list but they can't spam you.

The last real reason is so that I can send interested people last minute updates/amendments. If Murphy bites I'd like to let as many people know as early as possible. Most people read their personal mail before mailing lists so having your address available may make the difference between a cold night on your own outside a locked building and sitting indoors watching Firefly.

After the event I nuke the mailbox I stored the sign up emails mails in, and the sent mails about the event. I keep a tally of how many people registered, for future planning, but I don't keep any specific details on individuals. Hopefully, making the why more transparent with ease suspicions. Yeah, right.

PS: The most amusing one so far was a man complaining (via email) that he didn't want me having his email address...

Posted: 2006/05/14 14:10 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Tue, 14 Mar 2006


I'm not going to be about much until May. The site'll be pretty quiet and don't expect much in the way of email or phone replies.


Posted: 2006/03/14 12:21 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Sat, 31 Dec 2005

Looking Back at 2005

2005 was a very mixed year for me, it had some memorable high spots and a couple of tear jerking moments.

The year started off with me moving all my sites, email and everything else I put online from a shared machine to my own bytemark box after the shared host I was using got cracked through someones broken web app install. Digging through my backups and verifying nothing had been tampered with was a fun way to spend my hols.

February bought a small traffic spike when I got a book review on the front page of Slashdot. All the comments were actually pretty friendly. After this triggered my "love" of nearly getting heckled (and John Southerns ability to blindside me) I "volunteered" to organise a GLLUG meeting in March. It was the first meeting I've ever organised and it went pretty well in the end. It also saw GLLUG go back to the big crowds we used to get.

April wasn't as much fun. A small event I liked the idea of, a London CodeBrew never happened due to a complete lack of interest. From them and me. I then got sent to the middle of nowhere on a very painful training course in the middle of nowhere. After being deflated enough to not post at all in May I managed to one up myself and put on a June GLLUG.

July was a tragic month for a lot of people in London. I thought long and hard about whether I should post on the London bombings and in the end I did. This city is very much a part of who I am and I couldn't not say something.

The rest of a subdued July included the excellent one day OpenTech and me changing jobs. I picked up a lot about medical companies and how they like to do things in that role. It was an interesting job with nice people but it wasn't for me anymore. In August I spent way too much time playing with the ever cool Greasemonkey, went to a UKUUG event in Swansea and then screwed up a potential relationship. This was my most off-topic ever post and it generated a fair amount of email from people who knew me; and almost all of them guessed the wrong person which was amusing. It also proved too many of my friends don't have lives :)

September saw me get voted on to the UKUUG council (which I've been very lax in getting involved with) and the set up of PlanetGLLUG. I missed the Nordic Perl Workshop (in Sweden) after I made last minute plans to attend EuroOSCON. The highlight of which involved a funny as hell "tourist trip" around the back-streets of Amsterdam at gone midnight with a group of nearly professional piss-takers. And an advertising pitch from the owner of Orgasmatones...

The merry month of October bought the Linux World Expo in London, the first UK FUDCon and my third GLLUG, with the incredible Jeff Waugh speaking at GLLUG as part of his BadgerBadgerBadger tour. The initial Web frameworks night post went out. And nothing visible really happened. I also got to see an advanced screening (one day early!) of Serenity. Which was memorable for both the film and the fact that a large number of the audience seemed to be Browncoats who wanted a sing-song.

November was my month of stress, the Web Frameworks Night was a roaring success (after nearly not happening at all) and was my accomplishment of the year. It's the community aspect of events like this, the speakers, the contacts at the venue and the audience, that makes me love working in the OpenSource and Free Software worlds.

Posted: 2005/12/31 18:38 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Wed, 12 Oct 2005

Where (In the UK) is That Number?

After a pretty much technology free day at work I wanted to actually do something hands on before the day was over. After a flurry of reading and deleting of of blog posts it looked like the buzz word of the day was (still) Google Maps. So off I went.

With the aid of the excellent Number::Phone and the not too bad Geo::Google, which can't seem to handle Scottish towns, I put together a small script which displays the town a phone number is from using Google Maps. To try it out enter a phone number in the field below. You can skip the leading +, and/or the country code (44). It's also mostly OK with hyphens, spaces and other bits of cruft.

Disclaimer: I'm not logging the numbers entered anywhere.

Now for some caveats. It only works for Britain and Wales. Geo::Google doesn't do Scotland. It doesn't have support for the US yet. It only shows things on a town level. It has ugly error messages. But it does mostly work if none of those restrictions apply :)

Posted: 2005/10/12 21:23 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

Sun, 09 Oct 2005

Unixdaemon Book Reviews

I've finally gotten around to bringing my book reviews (mostly for London PM) in to my main site. You can now see my reviews on the book reviews page.

Posted: 2005/10/09 18:20 | /unixdaemon | Permanent link to this entry

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