Category Archives: perspective

12 Signs That The Recession Has Hit The Internet


The United States economy is in a funk. Food prices are up, oil is through the roof, real estate has collapsed, and credit is becoming scarce. Here are 12 signs to look for when the recession hits the Internet:

  1. Digg.com moves their server over to Dreamhost
  2. Jeff Bezos delivers his TED talk with a GoldenPalace.com tattoo across his naked chest
  3. i can affordz cheezburger?
  4. Drew Curtis switches to Pabst Blue Ribbon
  5. For $20, Rick Astley will show up to do it in person.
  6. Woot.com starts accepting payment in Flooz
  7. Jeph Jacques sells all remaining ad space to Warner Music Group
  8. Nigerian spammer steals your identity, only to return it 3 days later when he finds out your credit score
  9. Scoble spruces up resume for sweet new gig as Hugh MacLeod’s intern
  10. StuffWhitePeopleLike? Liquidity.
  11. Guy Kawasaki trades in his MacBook for a Dell
  12. You hire a PHP Developer for $12 an hour through elance.com, and it turns out to be Matt Mullenweg

Why I Wrote *that post*

One of the first posts I wrote on this site was about my frustration with getting good data on the difference between linux distros. It was titled, “Linux Users Are All Crazy Fundamentalists.” It has generated a ton of traffic, and comments from all perspectives.

I’ve held off on responding to the comments here because, for the most part, the article stands on its own. I feel like I need to respond, however, to Nick and James, and some of the other comments, to clarify my intent and purpose.

I do not expect anything to be handed to me. Never have. I understand the tradeoffs between proprietary solutions and open-source, and I am willing to embrace the challenges in order to use a free and open system. What I think you’re not understanding is that I want to become part of the contributing community surrounding linux. I want to understand, and help others to understand, how this things works. I’m not looking for someone to hand me a turn-key solution that involves no effort on my part. I want to build a server, I want to know how it works, and then I want to become part of the beautiful social cycle of reciprocation, where I pass that understanding on to those who stand where I stood.

I wrote this post out of the frustration that grew up because of that desire. I approached people with an open mind, a willingness to learn, a pretty sharp brain, and a idea of what was I was looking for in a linux platform. I wasn’t looking for someone to make a choice for me, I was looking for some reasonable basis from which I could make that decision on my own. I was confronted with a barrage of awful information, people barracking for their own cult-of-distro, rather than giving any consideration to the possibility that their might be reasonable choices outside of their own preference.

If I’m trying to build a fast and stable server, why the hell do I care if Debian does or doesn’t support a certain video card? Who cares which desktops interfaces are compatible? I’m going to use the command line, and the box will never have a monitor plugged into it. Yet, everywhere I went, there was some Ubuntu fanboy telling me that I was an idiot if I chose debian, or gentoo, or whatever, because it wasn’t compatible with xyz soundcard, or video card. Repeat 20x, for each distro, for a dozen different reasons that had nothing to do with what I actually needed out of my install.

And that, my friends, smacks of fundamentalism. When you remove yourself from reasonable discussion, and instead rely on the loudest rhetoric to make your point, you’ve lost me. Maybe that’s how the linux community protects its borders, by making bloodsport of noobies. Maybe it’s how the 12-year-old fanboys express the eternal adolescent insect of social herding. Either way, it’s frustrating and counterproductive.

I am not frustrated by choices. I’m frustrated by people who want to make those choices for me, who want me to fall in line with their gospel, and then insult my intelligence by not offering a reasonable basis for their loudly proffered opinions.

Back from Italy!

Flew from Milan to LAX yesterday. Got off the plane, and could literally feel the itching in my fingers to turn on the Treo, fire up the mobile ssh client, and do me some server-administratin’! If sorting out the group permissions on your apache virtual hosts has you a bit batty, I highly reccomend 2 weeks of wine, cheese, and prosciutto in the beautiful Tuscan hills. Call it therapy. Bill the client.

So, CLIdiot is back. Good times ahead, my hapless friends, as we foolishly stumble forward into that great fire swamp that is linux, armed only with our dauntless good cheer, a del.icio.us account full of tutorial links, and two pints of bitter ale.

To arms!

if at first you don’t succeed, blow it up

I’m on build #28.

28 times that I’ve blown up and re-imaged my server slice with a fresh Ubuntu install. I sit down to the command line with the intent of building a stable install, and I’ll get to the point where something goes way left, blow up the server, start over. I haven’t found a way to back things up cleanly, to uninstall a package, revert config files to their defaults, and remove the files and folders associated with it. I get very nervous knowing that some package has left trash all over my server. So, I blow up and start over.

  • Install apache2, install php5, install webmin, try to enable WebDAV on a virtual host, webmin hangs on a perl module and won’t budge. Blow up, start over.
  • Install apache2, install php5, install phpmyadmin, try to use it to setup a new privileged user and database, but phpmyadmin refuses to stay logged in. uninstall, reinstall, uninstall, reinstall, blow it up, start over.
  • Install Lighttpd, install ruby, install gems, install mongrel, realize that you’re accidentally following a tutorial for a ruby on rails application instead of a LAMP server, blow it up, start over.

Repeat, 28 times, with different problems and configurations.

It’s not lost time, really. I’m actually enjoying it. There’s something very zen about knowing you can always erase your mistakes and start over. I feel like each time, I’m narrowing in on the right setup, learning new things, starting to get a sense of how Ubuntu organizes data. My goals is to be able to setup a server without having to follow a tutorial; to know what the available options are at each stage in the setup, and to make an informed choice for each one.

It’s not enough to just build a server, I want to know how to build a server.

linux users are all crazy fundamentalists

I’ve spent the last two days googling the different linux distributions (or distros, as the too-cool-for-school developers themselves refer to them. distro. rhymes with disco.) to figure out which of the options offered by my VPS hosting company (slicehost.com) I should go with. I’ve been trolling through linux users forums, hanging out in IRC chat rooms, and just generally starting flamewars everywhere I go.

Hint: want to start a flamewar in a linux chatroom? Just casually pop in and ask people which distro you should use. People will light up the channel with everything from the helpful,
Ubu4lif: There are a lot of beginner tutorials for Ununtu, you might want to start with that
… to the passionate,
DebCoreDev: Ubuntu is destroying linux! 4 out of 5 Ubuntu users are baby rapists! Do you love baby rape? DON'T USE UBUNTU!!1
… to the downright insane,
Blwinkl48: I compiled my own linux distro called ScurvyLinux. ScurvyLinux is the only distro that correctly handles packet addressing with Cyrillic text modifiers. You are completely vulnerable to attack from former Soviet hackers unless you use ScurvyLinux!
On the whole, not particularly helpful. Any conversation about linux distributions starts to very quickly sound like a fundamentalist tent revival. It’s all black-and-white, and any new user is a potential convert. The louder you shout, the more right you must be.

I started out on a simple quest: I need a basic LAMP server, capable of running multiple domain names on a single IP address, with some ftp access. That’s about as vanilla a setup as you can possibly get. Based on this simple setup, I sought some advice from the natives on which linux distro would be the best choice for me. I’ve summed up their advice here in this here handy list:

Debian

Pros: Debian places a high value on stability. If Debian tells you a package is going to work on their distro, it’s going to f’ing work. Like a Clydesdale. It has probably the largest user base, which just means that when you have a question, there are 50 arrogant pricks to mock you for being an idiot instead of 6. There are no tutorials for Debian. Debian users are too busy working for a living to write tutorials.

Cons: Debian refuses to support the GVideo Awesomo Force GX45800 Accelerator Card! Don’t they know that all L337 GaMerZ use the GX45800? Debian is so dumb for not supporting that card (repeat 50x, insert favorite obscure piece of hardware). Debian is the linux equivalent of your grandpa, sitting on his porch rocker muttering, “I just don’t think this new-fangled Frequency Modulation radio is going to be around for long. I’ll stick with AM. It’s a stable, mature technology …”

Ubuntu

Pros: Oooooooh, pretty! Ubuntu is Debian, with support for the GVideo Awesomo Force GX45800 Accelerator Card, and every other thing people complain about Debian lacking. It also includes support for new utilities and program upgrades sooner than Debian does, but sometimes that means they jack up the implementation. There are roughly 19 billion tutorials for how to do anything you would ever want to do with Ubuntu. Unfortunately, they are all written by a 12 year old who knows even less than you.

Cons: Every other distro talks about Ubuntu in the same condescending tone of voice that the Romans used when talking about those silly Vandals, right before the Vandals sacked and burned Rome to the ground. Admitting that you use Ubunutu is the linux equivalent of putting a spoiler on your Hyundai – the only people who think you’re cool are other people with spoilers on their Hyundais. Also, Debian developers keep bitching about Ubuntu developers … something … taking from the open-source community … never giving back … I dunno, I dozed off after a while.

Gentoo

Pros: Apparently, with Gentoo Linux, you have to build the whole operating system yourself. Yes, this is the big upside that every Gentoo user keeps touting. Oh, hooray, I not only have to build the website myself, now I have to handcode the damn OS too. Hang on, let me get my soldering kit and some steel framing and I’ll wire up my own power supply while I’m at it.

Cons: uhhhhh … you have to build the whole thing yourself?

CentOS

Pros: CentOS is NOT affiliated with any big name corporation. Not in anyway! Not us! It says so right on our website! If you’d like to try it out for yourself, you can downloaded our totally unaffiliated distribution at ftp://ftp.redhat.com. Not that there’s anything wrong with that …

Cons: Lying bitches. Also, according to one very helpful Gentoo evangelist, people who use CentOS are more likely to have unprotected sex. I am so completely not making this up. There are some batshit crazy ass people out there in linux land.

Fedora

Pros: see CentOS.

Cons: You remember that asshole who lived down the hall in your dorm, the one with the Che Guevara t-shirt who kept talking about freedom and the rights of the people, except for the right of the people to not have to listen to him playing Bob Marley’s Legends CD all night long? Fedora is kind of like that. It’s all about freedom. Freedom from copyright. Freedom from intellectual property restrictions. It’s all about freedom, until it comes to your own freedom to install whatever the hell you want on your own computer. Then, not so much with the freedom.

concluding thoughts

It’s an operating system, not a religious movement. I’m not looking to become a convert, I’m not going to give my 10%, sing your songs, fly your banner from my rooftop. I just want to setup my blog.

I was amazed at how hard it was to actually get decent, reliable, non-biased information about the differences between linux distros. Why can’t someone just say, “Debian is designed around this idea, Ubuntu around this idea, Fedora does this really well, but Gentoo is better at this.” After swimming through the muck for a few days, I’m left with this thought:

The Linux community needs fewer fundamentalists. I can’t hear you talk above the noise of your shouting.

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command line idiot

I’m a reasonable intelligent guy. I scored at 1450 on my SAT’s, and that was back in the old days, when SAT scores really mattered, not these bitchy little “how does multiplication make you feel?” SAT questions that you kids have to answer nowadays. I’m not an idiot. I only mention this to impress you.

So, after a week of nearly complete downtime at my awesome shared hosting plan (I won’t mention who it was with, but it rhymes with Ream-host.com), I decided that I could probably build a faster, more reliable server than the one I was paying $5 a month to share with 3000 porn sites and world-of-warcraft clan pages.

“Self,” I thought to myself, “You should become a server administrator!” After all, when I had made the switch to OSX, I started messing around with the terminal, and found that I could use handy little commands like
cd ~/bin; ls
and
cat readme.txt

Hell, wasn’t I basically already a unix guru? How hard could it be to whip up my own linux server?

Unbe-damn-lievably hard. Harder than a Chuck Norris roundhouse to the man-junk. Oh Jesus, come down off the cross and shoot me in the head hard. What the hell was I thinking?

It turns out, I’m a command line idiot.