30 Days of Multimedia — Day 3 — Beginning Web Accessibility

This was something which I was thinking about, as I have been sort of doing some work with a group I belong to, and there are some things which I think should be done in terms of accessibility for stuff with web content:

  1. HTML should work without any CSS or JavaScript
  2. CSS should be used for presentational content
  3. JavaScript should only be used to enhance the HTML and CSS version

Now that is basically just a start, but since we want to keep things pretty simple for a single post here, I think we can start with these things right from the beginning.

HTML should work without any CSS or JavaScript

This is something that a lot of websites will fail because they are using things like JavaScript to control what is displayed, and what is not displayed.  While straight HTML often is pretty “boring” or hard to look at, but if it won’t work when presented as straight HTML, you are likely to have some problems.

When you are working with a content management system (such as WordPress here, or Weebly with that group I’m working with) often it can be difficult to know what all is happening unless you really work hard to dive into it.  With that in mind I will speak of testing in terms of a hand coded site, which I don’t really recommend except as an exercise to learn what is happening underneath, or if you wish to keep things extra simple.

I may write about some of the reasons you may want to hand code your site (usually with some programming to provide some dynamic content) in the next few weeks.  But for now we’re assuming that this is starting from the most basics.

HTML should be for content only and be semantic

This is a bit of a tricky thing  with what I am trying to say here I think.  First off, you HTML should “work” by itself.  That is it should look good enough that it makes sense by itself when it is rendered by the web browser.  But if we say that it is only for content, how do we make it “look good”?

Well the thing is, we don’t need it to actually look good we just need to make sure it makes sense.  So what I am looking at in front of me should never be what the HTML itself looks like:

Compter screen with a lot of different text on

Screenshot of WordPress post editing window

There are a few different things here which are presentational, and would not really work with straight HTML.  And one of those most obvious things is that the content is presented with three distinct columns of content.

Of course, with that said, that doesn’t mean that the way that this presents couldn’t actually work in terms of being straight HTML.  It would be a matter of making sure that what you want to present is in the right order.  And for me, this middle column content probably would present early than either the right or the left.

But when we start working with things in CSS then we can take stuff and present it in an “out-of-order” type way.  So I could have this centre edit window at the top (probably under that title bar that is currently at the top) but then the Categories and Tags from the right as the next elements.  Difficult, but not impossible.

So, the HTML has the content, and only worries about presentation from the perspective that when it displays without CSS and JavaScript it displays in a meaningful way.

Now in terms of that other bit…  The way that we actually write our code.

I can write all my code in ways that when I apply the CSS a person who is looking at it may have no idea that my code doesn’t really mean a lot:

For example:

<div class="paragraph">This is a paragraph</div>

Versus:

<p>This is a paragraph</p>

The above will work but because we have ways to do it without reverting to stuff which fails to express what function the content serves, ideally we should work to use those methods wich already exist to handle the content.

For example use an <em> tag rather than a <font> tag to indicate that you are seeking emphasis.  In “days of yore” there were a lot of HTML tags which were presentational such as <center> or (dare I say it) <marquee>.  The latter was never well accepted.

We eventually decided that such things were not really good practices, so we have either done away with them, or made it so that we don’t use them.

CSS should be used for presentational content

This is maybe a bit confusing too.  So if I want something in the centre, what I do is somehow do it in the CSS, not in the HTML file.  Why?  Well in part because as originally designed HTML was designed to convey “information” and presentational (how things look) isn’t conveying information, it is providing a means (ideally) to convey of that information “a little better.”

So another thing, is that you don’t simply put the CSS in the HTML file.  I have seen this repeatedly.  Where there is a lot of code which ends up directly in the HTML file, which is CSS, or JavaScript, that should be elsewhere.

We have the ability to load files, now with how things can end up loading, if there is more file loads, it can end up slowing down the website, but this really should not be handled by dropping the file loads down to a single file (you can technically do this with a PNG file, where you can have the image and all the presentation of it all in the same file, but it’s more of a “scary trick” than anything practical).

Now here is a tricky bit, is whether or not certain “modern” CSS ways of handling thing should be done with CSS or with JavaScript the way it used to be done.  My feeling is that as CSS works, if you can do it with CSS.  Now here is a bit of a problem, how do you handle “older browsers”.

Depending on how you handle things, you might not need to worry, sure your gradient disappears, or your animation disappears, but if you can have it so that the CSS still works in older browsers you can probably be safe.

JavaScript should only be used to enhance the HTML and CSS version

This is a case where “if you don’t need it, then don’t do it,” or more “you can do it, but if you need it to do what you want, your site will not be accessible”.  So the specific issue I was looking at was an “Accordion Box” which was being used by this group which even though it consisted of simply the 3 different items, the code to do so consisted of almost 16K of CSS, with no idea how to go through this.

If the code isn’t self-explanatory it is going to need to be commented, and when I strip the code which is not HTML from that section, I end up with less than 2K, and a lot of that is actually HTML layers of different things, the code which is the actual content comes down to less than 256 bytes.  And everything else should have been in external files, and whatnot.  Now of course, we run into the case which can happen where we then end up with trying to load 12 CSS files, and 12 JavaScript files, because you don’t want to be loading content which isn’t needed, because well you see each byte counts.

Except it doesn’t.  It’s how fast a page will load which counts, and unless you are using both a rather modern browser, and your web server is very well setup, loading 30 files when a lot of that could be combined in probably 3 files, with maybe a maximum of 6 files (except for stuff like images), you probably are far better off trying to get some version which has as few different files as possible.

While I want to *code* my site with the form stuff in a nice set of files, it’s probably not doing a lot of good when I end up loading that set of files, and the accordion set of files, and the image set of files, and the video set of files, and the calendar set of files…

This is in a way sort of part of what is called DRY or “Don’t Repeat Yourself”.  Though not really.  It’s just that when you are doing things like this in development, it is important to make sure that when you see “this isn’t working” you have a means to relatively easily find where the problem might be, but when we are talking about how things will work when you are working with something like a web site, multiple files can slow things down dramatically.

But so can large files.  If I have something which is going to be a small image, like what is called a “favicon” I may want to design it at a resolution of 1024×1024 (just a nice number), but if you are using it as a favicon, it used to be defined as 16×16 and you’re going to be downloading something which goes there (on the tabs of your web browser) in any case, and unless you are doing something which will be displayed everywhere else at a higher resolution you don’t want to have a big file which will take 4000 times longer to download.

So it can be a bit of a balancing act.

I am thinking maybe tomorrow I’ll talk about why you might want to hand code your site, specifically around stuff like speed of loading, and server load.

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30 Days of Multimedia — Day 2 — Do What You Can

I had a couple of ideas of which I’m not sure about.  Yesterday, I think there was a post about captioning, and I realized that there was something which I failed to say about this.  And that is do what you can.

There is a certain ideal that a person seeks when they are producing art of any sort (art being any form of creative project) and there are things which are important to go and try to do.

The thing about having those ideas is that sometimes what happens (as is currently happening to me) trying to achieve those ideals can prevent you from producing the work to begin with.

I know that I shared a podcast and felt that it wasn’t terrible to be an episode early in the production process, and we were looking for some feedback on it.

The problem I had with what the person said was basically, “this is way from what this company does who has done this for 10 years, over multiple different podcasts, and it should be way closer to what this podcast is.”

The problem, it was about the second episode I had ever recorded, and to have accomplished what he wanted I would have had to prepare for about 3 times as long as it took me to get that whole podcast out before even starting to record, then record it a few times, and then spend about 4 times as long editing it as I did.

And, due to a number of factors (this being one) I haven’t recorded another episode in any of my podcasts.

So, here I am trying to let people know that they should just produce, not let people tell you that you’re not doing a good enough job and thus you end up not doing it.

While I think that captioning and providing accessible content that is standards defined, is really important.  But there’s something people really need to remember about that.  Don’t focus so much on something that you forget to actually produce something.  If you don’t have the resources, then don’t quit because you can’t do it right, just do it.  And hopefully with time you’ll develop ways to be able to produce more work that is closer to what you really want, and you learn that now that you can do something more, that you can dream bigger…

Just a quick note.  And tomorrow, a little web development post…

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30 Days of Multimedia — Day 1 — Video Captioning

Just diving in to some video captioning.  I know there are some steps that I want to figure out how to do, but currently I don’t have a solution for them.  Currently I host videos on 3 different platforms:

  • PeerTube
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo

I have a means of getting captions to show up on YouTube, and I think the same way will work with PeerTube once I upgrade.  It looks like the releases aren’t up to the point I want to upgrade right now, but they should be (if I am not mistaken) by the time this post goes out.

Vimeo, I am not currently seeing any way to add captions to videos unless I burn in “open captions” which are captions which are put on the video itself.

So, trying to handle the captioning on all three platforms as it currently stands is going to be an individual process.  I was really hoping that I could do the captioning, put the captions in the video container, and then just have it work.  Unfortunately that doesn’t work on any of the platforms.

At least I haven’t found a way to make that work.

So, now I’m going to go to getting the captioning going.  I’m, recording this process so that I can do something with it when I am done the captioning.

First off, I am using Gaupol to do my captioning.  I’m sure there are better tools out there, but it does what I want well enough, and I’m getting used to the workflow.  So let’s get started.

OK, I’m not sure why, but the audio isn’t coming very loud, so I can’t hear myself, so first I need to dive into Kdenlive and see if I can fix that.

OK, it seems to be an issue on my end, or at least YouTube is loud enough, but Gaupol is not.  I may just have to drop in and do that at some other time.  Right now I’m re-rendering the video, and that will take some time.  So I’m going to pause with the stream, and probably pick it up again tomorrow.

I finally figured out what was going on.  Gaupol was playing through the monitor, and I was listening on the headphones.  Anyway.

I opened up Gaupol:

mostly blank application window

Gaupol starts with a blank screen, with little idea of what is going on.

This is a bit disorientating when you first open this up, or you open it up for a while, but then you start with a new file:

Application window with a table, with one line of data

Gaupol looks like maybe things will be workable after you create a new file.

This is starting to look like there may be something to do, but I’m working with a video file, and (I don’t talk about this) you can’t open the video file, until you have got here.  I keep trying to start from there, but it won’t work.  So let’s open the video file:

Application window with video, video controls, and table of data

Now we’re getting somewhere, this looks like what I hope things will look like when I’m captioning (or might look like).

So now we have what we need to work.  And the process is pretty slow for me (partially because I have to type things in, so I can’t type as fast as I speak) and partially because there are some finicky bits about how this all goes.

I recorded the sessions (I ended up splitting it up in two sessions as I had to go out for supper.  And those videos are about an hour each.  This is for a 5 minute video.  I’m getting better at going through this and doing it relatively quickly, but it takes time, and really ideally doing captions is best done by someone who is involved with what is said, because you are better at figuring out what was said than someone who doesn’t know.  (A friend offered to help with it, but said that he’d have trouble translating the audio to text due to auditory processing issues).

So, I’m going to jump to what I have for the actual caption file, and what it looks like in the end:

Application window, with video, and table of captions of the video

This is what this looks like in the end.

This is what the final captioning looks like.  I notice that I have left the captioning with a blank caption at the beginning, and this might not be ideal.  I haven’t had problems with this, and it might be something with how the files are handled, but that first blank caption ends before the next caption begins, and if there was content, this likely would be a problem, but with it being blank it seems like it has been working.

I’m leaving this here for now, but if you go to my PeerTube the videos of the actual captioning should be there.  It will be two videos which are each about 1 hour long.

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30 Days of Multimedia — Introduction

“This Month” I have decided to do “30 Days of Multimedia”.  What I mean is that in September I am going to write stuff which is stuff that Datse Multimedia Productions type multimedia projects.  I’m not entirely sure what I am going to be doing, so this is a bit of a plan for what might happen for the month of September.  I know that I’m writing this a bit early, so it may end up scheduling the post, rather than actually publishing it today.

Here is some sense of what I might be writing:

  • Web Development
  • Photography
  • Video Production
  • Design
  • Digital Art
  • Open Source Creation
  • Creation Philosophy

That’s the sort of 6 areas that I am looking at.  Maybe I should expand it a bit:

  • Web Development
    • HTML
    • CSS
    • PHP
    • These things really could well each be a “30 Days Project” but we may do a bit of stuff here.
    • Accessibility (Day 3)
  • Photography
    • Shutter Speed
    • ISO
    • These two are an extension of what I wrote a bit ago
    • Photo Merging (using Hugin)
    • Composition
  • Video Production
  • Audio Production
    • Recording
    • Levels
    • Hardware
  • Design
    • Design Basics
    • Colour Theory
    • Balance
  • Digital Art
    • Producing Digital Art
    • Setting up drawing tablet on Linux
    • Vector vs Raster
  • Open Source Creation
    • Open Source Software
      • GIMP
      • Kdenlive
      • Inkscape
      • Krita
    • Tools for working
      • Anki
  • Creation Philosophy

That’s just a bit of an overview, and I think that I can probably get a few different ways to go with this, currently the ones I think would probably work as a different posts are probably about 2/3 of what I will need to do.  I will probably put the completed ones after here.  And I’m sure that the individual posts (which may start being written some time before the beginning of the month).

I hope it goes reasonably well.  I also would really like to get close to the 30 different posts published for the month of September.

Also, just want to talk a little bit about some stuff that *might* get posted before this goes up, I am working on some video stuff, and may write some stuff about how I set them up, and will be doing some more work on stuff.  I did think that I would be doing about 6 posts by the end of the month here.

But I don’t see that happening.  Writing is usually more my thing, and I think I’ll mostly be doing that.  But then when I work with the photography stuff, the design stuff, the digital art stuff, the audio stuff, and the video stuff I will be producing some stuff with that.

One thing I have been thinking is that maybe for next September I will want to have come up with some outline for some courses that I will be offering, and I will be needing to get feedback for that.  I don’t quite know how I will handle that.  But maybe I’ll turn commenting back on.  I don’t know.  The spam comments are something which can get very overwhelming…

So what might I be doing for this (This list is probably going to slowly develop based on the above, and what I have here).

So the “numbers” are based on writing days, so there may be multiple posts written in a given day.

That should be good.  I don’t know (I hope that I can get at least a few before I manage to post this, and this will update as I am working on this).  Also, I think that I want to make sure people know about supporting me:

  • Paying for stuff through this store
  • Patreon
  • Liberapay – at writing they are transitioning payment processors, so may be difficult
  • ko-fi – at writing don’t have anything setup

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Planning for September

I continue to think that for each “30 day month” to do a “30 Days of” project.  It seems to work fairly well for me, but I know I can’t keep things up much more than that.  In my experience of the way these things go, I can sometimes do up to about 3 days worth of these in a given day, but I can’t really do it every day.  I was a few days ahead last time that I was successful.  I did “30 Days of Autism Acceptance” in April, and I tried to do “30 Days of Science Thinking” in June, but for some reason that ended up not working out.

So for September I have been thinking of “30 Days of Multimedia” which will be stuff that has to do with the work that we are doing here.  I really was hoping that I could get something different going, and my initial thought was to do “30 Days of Web Development” but I’ve decided that is too tight of a topic to really be able to do.

I’m about to start up a stream on Picarto, for working on starting some thinking about what I will be doing for that.  I’m hoping to have ideas for at least 10 days by the end of today.  And I’m working on this at an “odd time”.

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Depth of Field — f-stop/aperture, speed, iso, exposure

There are quite a few things I want to mention here, but really want to focus on basically two of them.  This is about some of the technical aspects of taking pictures, and how they end up looking, so first off:

  • exposure – This is the overall level of light and dark, though it can also refer to parts of a picture in some cases.  Overexposed means stuff is too light, and underexposed means that things are too dark.

I start there because everything else I want to talk about is what determines the exposure.  Those are:

  • f-stop/aperture – the degree that the opening in the lens is open
  • shutter speed – how quickly the camera opens and closes (this is a bit of an oversimplification)
  • iso/asa – what used to be called “film speed”.  It is the sensitivity of the sensor/film.

When these are in balance, the picture has a balanced exposure (though if it is high contrast it you can have areas of overexposure or underexposure, and sometimes both).

That is the brief overview of the different aspects of these.  We going to focus on f-stop and depth of field.  With some information about how changing that ends up affecting the other aspects.

Here are some shots that I took today.  They are all the same subject, but there are environmental changes, and changes with how I’m holding the camera (I maybe should have shot with a tripod).  The only thing which I consciously changed with these photographs is the f-stop, and it should be at “full stop” intervals if I did it right (I don’t know that I did).

Yellow flower with green leaves beside it

Rudbeckia shot at f6.4

This one is shot at f6.4 which on this lense (at this focal length) is as wide open as the aperture can be.

This gives us our narrowest depth of field and this is probably where things are a little bit complicated/confusing as this low number indicates that the aperture is more open, than a larger number.

I’m not sure how to explain it better without getting very technical, so for now I am going to leave this at this level of explanation.

There are also a couple of other things to note with this (which will maybe become more clear as we go through this).

The focal length of these pictures is 200mm so I am not going to mention that much further.  The other two things to mention are the two values which I mentioned above, ISO and shutter speed.  I left these for the camera to decide, so they end up changing:

  • ISO: 125
  • Shutter speed: 1/332 s

To me I would say that the shutter speed the camera “found” is a bit faster than I would have liked, as I would have thought that 1/200 s would have been sufficiently fast, and possibly (other than flower movement) passable as low as 1/50 s.  This doesn’t really matter all that much for this one, as the ISO is really what I would say is at the low (ie. slow sensor) end of the value range.  I would probably be happy up to about an ISO of about 400.

The reason that you (usually) want a low ISO is that the lower the ISO the less “noise” that you see.  I’m not sure that it will show up enough in the post itself, but these pictures when viewed at full resolution will show the dramatic difference that this can make.

Yellow flower with green leaves around it, background starting to show some details

Rudbeckia shot at f9.1

This picture is taken at an f9.1 setting (quick calculation) is one stop (rounded from just over 9.05) smaller aperture (and larger f-number).  The background leaves are just starting to get some very limited detail, but are still very much out of focus.

The picture has slightly different values for shutter speed, and ISO:

  • ISO 250
  • Shutter speed: 1/332 s

This is a full stop difference in the ISO, and is still well within what I think most cameras are able to produce very fine-grained pictures.

The two values changing by one stop, in opposite directions means that the exposure remains the same.

Yellow flower with green leaves around it, background starting to show some more details

Rudbeckia shot at f13

Here we have taken the f-stop to f13.  Again we have managed to have a full stop change with the f-stop.  The details in the background are starting to become a little clearer.

As with the other picture, we have some changes to the ISO and shutter speed:

  • ISO: 500
  • Shutter speed: 1/332 s

When you look at this picture (as I was expecting) you are starting to get some visible noise/grain with the ISO getting higher than 400.  It’s not that dramatic yet, but it will become more so if the camera continues this trend.  I would say that this would be the upper end if I want fine grain at looking at it at 100% zoom factor.  It probably could go higher at display (or print) resolutions higher than my screen at ~94 pixels/inch.  I’m not sure I would want to for important pictures, unless the camera really “needed” to.

Yellow flower with green leaves around it, background starting to have slightly blurry green plants behind it

Rudbeckia shot at f18

Here we have gone to f18.  The depth of field is much deeper, and the background is starting to show some details that were totally absent in the first picture.  Again, I managed to take this at one full stop higher f-stop.  The reason I think I might not be getting it right on is that my camera has 1/3 stop increments, and I know at least one is off.

Again, we have a similar change in terms of ISO and shutter speed:

  • ISO: 1000
  • Shutter speed: 1/332 s

The noise at this resolution is starting to be noticeable even at display at this size (which is actually bigger than it is when it is displayed on the blog).  This probably is the highest ISO that is practical except in low light situations.  Which we aren’t in at all here.

Yellow flower with green leaves around it, background starting to have slightly less blurry green plants behind it

Rudbeckia shot at f26

Here we are at f26 which probably is a “rounding error” to correct the previous ones, and from f6.4 it looks to be perfect, but from f19 it looks like a significant rounding error (oops f19 was what I calculated based on, but it should have been f18 which makes it make sense).

We are getting enough detail in the background that the veins on the leaves are starting to show up clearly (out of focus, but clearly enough).

We have a similar change in terms of ISO and shutter speed:

  • ISO: 2000
  • Shutter speed: 1/332 s

In parts at this resolution I am seeing the noise showing up fairly heavily.  Personally I don’t like it, and if I wanted it for an “effect” I could add it in post production.  And still, I feel the shutter speed is faster than we really need here.

yellow flower with brown centre with green leaves around and behind it

Rudbeckia shot at f40

This is the last one of the series.  I have gone more than one stop, it looks like it is 1 ⅓ stops.  Some of the background is fully in focus in this, and it is a very different photo than the first one in the series.

The ISO and the shutter speed ended up changing slightly differently here:

  • ISO: 4000
  • Shutter speed: 1/256 s

I’m not quite sure if this is being done because of the 1/3 stop difference and it is putting that change in the shutter speed, rather than ISO?  Or because it is starting to see that it is better to increase the ISO less.

I have changed some settings which should lead to allowing for slower shutter speeds, thus lower ISO values.  I may have taken it far enough to lead to low enough shutter speeds that camera shake and motion blur are a bit more of a possibility.  I am still working on getting the settings on the camera the way that I want them, and keep trying new ways of shooting to let that happen.

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Migrating from wordpress.com to wordpress.org

A while ago I migrated a site I manage from wordpress.com to wordpress.org mostly because I wanted to do ecommerce on the site, and made a few notes with the intention of writing up a blog post about it.

My notes say:

  • Migrate wp.com -> wp.org
  • Create vps
    • Update system
  • DNS
    • Transfer Domain
      • Change registrar (not in notes)
      • Change DNS server location (not in notes)
  • php
    • fpm
    • inifile
    • mysql mysqli
  • nginx
  • mysql
  • dns
    • ttl 8400 (1d)
    • refresh 14400 (4h)
    • retry 7200 (2h)
    • expire 1209600 (2w)
    • Records
  • hostname
  • timezone
  • domain name
  • mysql
    • config
  • nginx
    • config
  • fpm
    • config
  • wordpress
    • install
    • import

Now a lot of this even I’m having trouble really remembering the details of, but I think that I’m going to try to give at least a little bit of information about each of these steps.  I do know that several of these things could easily be a separate post.

Migrate wp.com -> wp.org

I decided to do this, and some of what I am doing I would not really recommend doing the way I am, unless you are already leaning in this direction.

One thing in particular about this is that while I personally use gentoo as my preferred distribution, I think that this is not a good way to go for system critical stuff, unless you are quite familiar with it, and are happy with how things work with it.

I personally have two computers at home running gentoo, and most of my linode “nodes” running gentoo, so it works well for me.  I like the way it works, and it can be difficult to switch from one distribution to another.

Also, while I have found that I can do good jobs of breaking my gentoo boxes, I usually realize that there was something I shouldn’t have done, and relatively quickly what it was, and why it was bad.  On at least one distribution I have found that I tried to do some stuff with it, and I did know what I did wrong, but I didn’t know why I should have known that it was wrong, which was why I felt that gentoo (for me) was going to be better than what I was using, as I still couldn’t tell why following the recommendation given, should have set a red flag, without deciding that similar advice was best to avoid.

So, while the update process can really load the server a lot, it can be a problem on machines which are in major production and are regularly used “at any time.”  So, I guess that is some ideas that I have been coming from.

Create vps

I run my public machines (or machines which need to be accessed from somewhere other than a private location) on Linode, and they have the option to create a volume with Gentoo on it.  So, I am pretty good with that.

When I create it I try to make sure there is a good sized swap, and I try to keep some “spare” unassigned space for the rest.  I have found that only with one system I’ve run into a situation which I was swapping, and I think one thing there was I was doing it in a “reasonable” way to test the server, but not a good way to really run an active server (using sqlite rather than postgresql).

The thing with Linode is they have a “node configuration” rather than pick and choose type system, and I have found that for the most part this ends up with overprovisioning one or more parts of the server (processor, memory, storage), but it seems to be cheaper than the cases where I could adjust each individually.  “swapping too much” add more memory, “running out of drive space” add more storage, “processor running too high a percentage” add “another core”.

Also, so far linode has been good with support.  In fact way better with support where the host has been a lot more expensive.  The one reason I went with a different one, was that I hoped/expected that certain sites the Linode server was “too big” by at least a factor of 2 on all aspects.  And honestly I think that in a lot of ways it probably was, if I was doing a low use, and low load site (largely static).

Since then, linode has started offering such a machine.  Which is great for sites where I’m developing my own site from the ground up, as I want them to be able to run (unless they become high demand) on small machines like that.

Update system

Once I have provisioned the server, I boot it up, and start the update process.  This is really important especially with gentoo that even though you “could” start installing your software right away, it’s far safer to just try to get things updated and running as the latest version.

Gentoo packages are usually in 3 different states of being able to be installed (if they exist in your “tree”) that being “stable”, “testing” or “masked”.  I tend to run with “stable” as the default, and use “testing” if I need to.  Masked almost always poses problems, unless the reason the package is masked (these are almost always given) is something you decide “yes this is really what I need to do”.

So, when I update, I tend to do:


$ emerge --sync
$ emerge -uDaNt @world

for my update, but sometimes that is not the best way to go, and on gentoo you usually get something like “portage has an update available it’s recommended…” or if it is more than that it gets listed as a “news” item which it is worth looking at before diving into something like a complete system update like that.

That said, the emerge --sync usually won’t cause problems, and may give you an idea of where to go better (there can be new news items pulled in).

So, one thing which is often complained about with gentoo is that whenever you try to install, update, or pretty much do anything like that it takes a long time, so this becomes something where when I am doing that, I will do other stuff while I am waiting for that (right now I’m writing this while doing a new server which will host email for my ActivityPub stuff to start off with, but eventually all of the email for all of the domains I maintain), so I went and did some long time to process (usually) stuff in this case setting up DNS, or at least the first stages of that.

DNS

There were a few things I wanted and/or needed to do with this but I needed to first off get the DNS to be able to point to the new server, and that meant that I needed to switch at the very least the DNS servers which would serve that.

I also really wanted to drop my current two registrars as they are both forcing Domain Protection Services on me, meaning the domain when it is queried shows up with “anonymous” data for it.

This used to be an “add on” service which some registrars would promote highly because it protected you from unscrupulous people on the internet, and it was promoted as a “very good idea”. But I never really bought into that “very good idea” for a main thing of I didn’t care enough to in many cases end up paying about 60% of the domain registration to “hide”. And that didn’t make sense to me.

Then I read of cases where people who legitimately had registered a domain, ended up having the domain transferred away from them, and they’d had this data set, and because of that had a lot of trouble with getting control of the domain back because they had a lot of trouble proving that the “anonymous person” was the person that they really are.

I contacted one of the registrars twice about this, and their answer was very unsatisfactory. So I decided that it was time to move away from them (I’d also had other very unsatisfactory responses from them about several other issues. So I decided to do that as well.

Transfer Domain

With these two different things that I was processing I decided that I needed to think of how to do this. So my way of handling this (and I really think it is safest to do this way) was to transfer the registration to the new registrar (webnames.ca) and then change the DNS server records from there.

Change registrar (not in notes)

Changing to the new registrar ended up being a bit of a problem, and I think that I have to try to remember how this works:

  1. Unlock domain (allow transfer) at old registrar
  2. Request transfer at new registrar
  3. Approve transfer at new registrar
  4. Approve transfer at old registrar

It all seems simple enough, but I have now done this process twice between the same two registrars and have not managed to do it smoothly between these two registrars. So, I have to say while it seems simple, sometimes little things like not noticing something equivalent to a “click here” type link can be a bit of an annoyance.

Change DNS server location (not in notes)

Once I got the domain at the new registrar, I switched the DNS servers to my linode DNS servers.  This was pretty simple.  It transferred all the data from the previous registrar, but the DNS servers were set to wordpress.com and that needed to change as I was moving away from them.

So, just delete those records, and add the ones that I need for linode.com

php

WordPress needs php, as that’s the programming language they use, and you can’t “just get a binary” and even if it was a possibility gentoo would probably not have a binary only option for something that it runs from source, unless the package is so large that it’s deemed that both source and binary versions are available.

So I needed to install php, I could do things through emerge and simply emerge wordpress and get everything built how gentoo believes it should be.  The problem I have had with that idea, is that often the way it installs ends up with still more work than having installed it from with just the dependencies installed manually.

fpm

I use nginx as my webserver of choice, and it likes (and so do I right now) fpm as the way to handle running php.

inifile

I can’t remember why this was needed, but for some reason I felt that it was.

mysql mysqli

WordPress needs MySQL support, so I used both use flags that should bring it in.  I’m not sure which actually is needed, or if it figures out what best to use, based on what is available.  I don’t really know, though I could look.

nginx

I think that either with setting up PHP it set everything that was needed for nginx I just needed to install it.

mysql

MySQL just needs to be installed, I think I probably installed mariadb rather than mysql, as there are some improvements in mariadb that aren’t in mysql, and some of them are pretty important.

dns

This could have been setup earlier in the process so that at the point I got to here, this would already be working, but I hadn’t so I needed to set this up and then step back for a bit to get things so that DNS was working.

Timings

  • ttl 8400 (1d)
  • refresh 14400 (4h)
  • retry 7200 (2h)
  • expire 1209600 (2w)

These are the various timings that I like to set.  They allow for a faster update of DNS records when I change things, and they mean that if for some reason something happens with the DNS records that I’m serving, and that they aren’t being served for whatever reason I have a bit of time (in theory 2 weeks) before everything should break.

Records

The next thing to do was to setup the records, some of which I could copy straight from the old ones (because they should work moving to the new servers) and others I needed to update to point to the new servers.

The thing with linode that I like compared to other places I’ve hosted DNS records (ie. I’ve used their DNS servers for my sites) is that from what I can tell, unless you are doing something “really weird” and more specifically also “dangerous” they really let you set things as you wish.

hostname

Setting the hostname of the machine was important because it gets confusing when it’s not set, and also certain things don’t work properly when it’s not set.

timezone

I always leave this until the point I look at the logs and go “um, when was that exactly” and realize that they are listed in some other timezone (most commonly UTC).  So I need to set the timezone mostly for convenience for myself.

domain name

This I don’t think I ever figured out how to get the server to fully recognize what the fully qualified domain name (FQDN) is, but that’s probably down the road a bit.

mysql

At this point I have everything setup on the server to start bringing the needed services up so I started with mysql, for no real reason really.

config

Certain configuration needs to be set in order to even start looking at setting this up.  Gentoo does not automatically do this, and while it’s a bit annoying to not be able to just start it, it is quick to do the configuration.

nginx

nginx is the web server, so setting this up is really important.  It’s something that takes a bit of practice, and some projects love to use nginx, others apache, and that seems to be the two primary ones that you can get easy instructions for.  Most projects default to apache as it has historically been the more popular server of the two, currently it is a bit of a tossup as to which is the more dominant, they are getting very close to the same number of site.

config

Configuring nginx can be a bit of a pain.  Especially if you’re transferring your configuration from apache.  I don’t really know about other ones.

fpm

fpm is how PHP works with nginx (or at least a common and recommended way) so this needs to be setup.

config

Once you have a working configuration of fpm, changes to make it “work better” seems to be pretty good.  It takes a little while to get it working in my experience, but moving from one site to another it’s a lot easier once you’ve done that.

wordpress

I install wordpress based mostly what is on the wordpress.org site.

install

Follow the instructions on wordpress.org.  This works well on gentoo once you have the main stuff setup.

import

Importing stuff from the old server first takes exporting it (which I failed to note, I think because I had done that already and didn’t need to do a new version as nothing had changed).  I’m not quite sure how I managed the moving of the media files over to the new site, but we have done so.  It was pretty simple, and because of how the old site was, it was pretty quick and easy to check that everything was working.

Conclusion

While this is mostly just a brief outline (honestly it is pretty brief as I could easily write close tho this whole length for each of 6 more posts to handle this, but mostly I just don’t have the notes to manage that right now so will need to do another similar migration, though I don’t see that happening any time soon.

I really would like to write something more about the basics of setting things up for a new server through linode as it is currently done.

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New Camera, and resultant stuffs…

Hey, um, ah…

I ordered a new camera body a while ago, and it came on Wednesday (it’s Friday).  I have been playing around with it, so I have been doing some test shooting, and I am doing a bit of a stuff with that.  So yesterday I shot over 200 pictures, and I did the sorting to get them handled.

With the camera I am now able to shoot video, and have done some test video shooting.  But, I’m not sure what will happen with that.  It’s not a “normal” thing for me, but I think that some of that could end up coming up.

In the past I have really wanted to do more video production stuff, and I have really been trying multiple different ways to manage to do that better, so I have to say that this seems to work quite well for me.

Now, there is the one thing that has come out of the ability to film, and post videos, I have setup a PeerTube instance (sign ups are available, but currently somewhat limited).  And am in the process of setting up a Mediagoblin instance, which will have our photographs on (once I have set this up).

It has been a while that I have been trying to get the Mediagoblin instance up, and it has been a bit of a trick to get it as far along as I have it setup.  So that’s not really up yet, and I hope that it is “soon” that it will take a while to get setup.

Right now I am going to import the photos I have taken so far today (probably today’s photos in entirety) and start to sort them, hopefully down to 40 or fewer photos.  I may even start to look at some editing of them if I get around to that.  But I think I’m going to consider looking at MediaGoblin to see if I can get it done, or at least get closer to it…

OK, um, yeah, I’m streaming on Picarto right now, and I’m recording, and will be posting it on the PeerTube when I get around to it.  I will probably be doing a bit of a post once I posted on PeerTube.

So, here this goes, and I’m going to start working on those photos.

 

 

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My thoughts on eFail “vulnerability” with “PGP” s/mime etcetera…

This has to do with improper handling of HTML emails.  And is said that it could “expose plain text”.  The “attacker” needs to compose a message, which contains a malformed multi-part mime message, which they then encrypt, and they can then expose the plaintext of that message with some browsers which improperly handle these messages.

In other words, the attackers can expose the plaintext which they put into the message.  And, apparently this is an “old bug”.  So why all the cloak and dagger?  I am not entirely sure, but I have a suspicion that some “security researchers” are almost “more in it for the prestige” than they are in it to actually provide genuine help to people.

This was announced by the “security research team” that “more in 2 days when we release our paper”.  They released a “pre-release” version to EFF who (in my opinion) jumped the gun and said that there was a good reason to stop using these tools entirely, and that you should instead use a centralized tool instead.

The “research team” had no reason to disclose that they would be “releasing a full paper” in the public manner that they did.  At least I see no evidence that really there was such a *severe* threat that it was justified.

Further, I don’t know that EFF really did *any* due diligence to make sure that the “flaw” which is disclosed, was one that posed a severe security threat.

So, what’s in it for EFF, and the security research team?  I can’t quite see what is in it for EFF, but the security research team gets another notch in their belt for being “appropriate corporate citizens.”  But the fact is, what *they* did was entirely inappropriate as the spread a bunch of “fear uncertainty and doubt” (FUD) which they actually have *refused* to actually talk to anyone publicly about.  This may also be true of past behaviours.

Essentially, this appears to be a case that an “attacker can compose an email that they can read when you read it.”  Now the *possible* leakage that may exist (assuming this isn’t patched) is that the attacker can tell *when* you read their message.  But to do so requires about 4 *different* bugs to exist in your mail software.  And “deleting” or “disabling” these features is not warranted.  Though there *are* mitigations which they deny exist, which should be available to pretty much anyone who uses PGP or variations:

  1. disable automatic decryption of encrypted emails.
  2. disable automatic processing of html of emails.

Both of these options should be available for anyone who is using PGP, and their variations.  And are the recommended settings to the best of my knowledge.

Posted in Computer Security, Internet Security | Comments closed

Update and ideas…

I know that I haven’t posted a lot here recently.  I have been working over on the Open Psychology Project mostly on the topic of my “30 Days of Autism Acceptance” which I have been working on since a little bit before the beginning of April, and am still a bit behind.

In June, I plan on writing posts on “30 Days of Science Thinking” which I have the “introduction” written, and scheduled for May 17th.  Though there may be edits to it prior to getting to May 17th.

I have been thinking about writing 30 Days thing for every 30 day month.  Though I’m also thinking of adding February as “30 Days in February” type idea as well, as it just is too long from the end of November to the beginning of April.  And besides April is “always going to be” “Autism Acceptance Month”.

For September, I am thinking along the line of “30 Days of Web Development.”  Though that’s a way from now.

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