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A personal message about the importance of backing up your data

Woo hoo! Time Machine to the rescue.

My personal laptop, work laptop, and Dreamhost shell account all auto-sync a few personal data files of very useful data between them… This morning I corrupted one instance and that corruption was synchronized, wiping out all the work in all three locations…

Thankfully I have two redundant backup plans for my personal laptop:

  • I regularly (about every 2 weeks) do a Carbon Copy Cloner full drive clone to a bootable external USB3 drive… (that gives me a drive I can plug into an emergency rental laptop)
  • I have Time Machine backup my laptop every 2 hours to a Time Capsule (though any Network Storage or external drive should work) – but only copy the changes….

I was able to use Time Machine to delve back to 5am this morning (before I was up) grab a clean copy of the file from then and restore it, and then I had to manually re-apply the few changes I made around 7:40am from human memory; but that was much better than having to recreate all the data.

Remember to back your data up often and in a couple of different ways.

Microsoft Surface Studio, impressive!

Microsoft announced a new desktop computer yesterday, and I confess I usually am in the habit of ignoring Microsoft announcements because they typically offer nothing I am interested in; but yesterday’s announcement is stunning and ground breaking. The new Surface Studio is the first Microsoft product I actually want since Photosynth launched in 2008…

Microsoft Surface Studio

It’s quite expensive, but it is so ground-breaking and such a polished design that I can see it changing the industry and the way we do desktop computing over time as competitors implement some of the features. This is the sort of innovation usually developed by Apple.

Very impressive.

Firefox 49.0.2 update – beware…

So apparently the new Firefox update (49.0.2) overwrites your cert8.db file – for many people that does not matter; but if you have a lot of self-signed certs and internal to your company certificates to trust this is a catastrophe unless you backed up your cert8.db or can get another from your corporate IT folks.

On a Mac it is located in ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/__your_profile__/cert8.db
Backup that file before you update to 49.0.2

The importance of good examples in coding and configuration files

My employer has chosen to use DataDog for some of it’s monitoring, and I have been having a really hard time getting simple process monitoring to work reliably. Turns out that the process.yaml file syntax used by DataDog agents is very dependent on Python language psutil calls, and there is quite a difference between single quotes (used in Datadog’s examples) and double quotes (needed for searching for running processes where the unique string is in the middle of a very long line).

Datadog’s Process check is documented pretty well at Process check and the simple checks are easy and work right away. Checking for a running httpd process or nginx process is trivial using the example, and the PID check works, though I am not sure how useful it is as pretty much no one uses static PID assignment. What the examples need to include are an effective fuzzy search to pull the existence of a specific instance of a Node.js or Java Servlet out of many possible running processes. The simple name search for ‘java’ is not very helpful – as I have as many as a dozen separate Java servers running on a host. Likewise a simple name search for ‘node’ is useless as I have as many as thirty node.js servers running at a time… I spent far too many hours trying to get the exact name match to work until I discovered that the switch to double quotes and the use of the exact_match: False boolean operator make this fairly reliable… given that running node and java are so common, why doesn’t DataDog include examples of that?

Here are mine, /etc/dd-agent/conf.d/process.yaml contents:

name: cassandra
search_string: ["java -ea -javaagent:/usr/share/dse/cassandra/lib/jamm-0.2.5.jar"]
exact_match: False
ignore_denied_access: True

search_string: ["node /full/path/to/nodejs/bin/mu/fuzzyblink.js"]
exact_match: False
ignore_denied_access: True

Run service datadog-agent restart ; sleep 8 ; service datadog-agent info to reset you datadog agent and verify the syntax of your process.yaml file.

Now you can set up a process monitor alert through your DataDog cloud account and look for process:cassandra and metrics coming in from the agent. The double quotes are the key.

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3rd generation Ford Focus owner/driver tips

Ford Focus, DCT transmission anomalies explained, and some useful information for 3rd generation Ford Focus owners/drivers.

We’ve been reading loads of useful information and tips at:

In particular – this posting makes a a LOT of sense:

Ford Powershift DCT Transmission info use guide new owners look here

Trump, the GOP, and The Fall

This is absolutely brilliantly written and worded; and expresses exactly my feelings on the current election and self-destruction of the Republican party… I confess I never know if I should cheer on that self-destruction, or lament the loss of a reasonable and rational counterpoint to the Democratic party, which does need a healthy check against it often.

Update: I should also point out the full, original text by Scalzi himself is at, I just think John Gruber did such an amazing job excerpting the key portions and commenting that it was worth linking to his review of Scalzi’s text.

“Trumpster Fire”

“Trumpster fire” – John Gruber knocks it out of the park again with my favorite phrase of the week when he compares the Republican National Convention to a “Trumpster fire” – awesomely apt description.

Dispicable and predatory practices by corporations (Microsoft)

This is nauseating…

I was annoyed by Apple’s pushy iOS 9.3.2 upgrade pressure; but this is way beyond anything Apple has done so far…

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Wow – visualizing the massive scale of global shipping is interesting

We live in amazing times indeed where planetary shipping can be visualized like this…

Adding a MediaWiki to BananaPi

In previous post I covered how to stand up CentOS 7 on BananaPi:

This is how to add Apache, PHP, MariaDB and MediaWiki to a BananaPi.

Install a bunch of software:
yum -y install httpd php php-mysql php-gd php-xml mariadb-server mariadb

First, set up the database:
systemctl start mariadb

disable anonymous users
enforce only local root login
remove test database
reload priv tables

mysql -u root -p
CREATE DATABASE wikidatabase;
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON wikidatabase.* TO 'wiki'@'localhost';
SHOW GRANTS FOR 'wiki'@'localhost';
systemctl enable mariadb

I like to store the passwords in a password vault like KeePassX, 1Password, or LastPass.

Set up apache:
systemctl enable httpd
vi /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

Change DocumentRoot “/var/www/html”
to DocumentRoot “/var/www”

Change change ” DirectoryIndex index.html”
to ” DirectoryIndex index.html index.html.var index.php”

echo "It Works" >> /var/www/index.html
systemctl start httpd.service

Configure firewall to allow WebService
yum -y install system-config-firewall-tui
firewall-cmd --permanent --add-service=http
firewall-cmd --permanent --add-service=https
firewall-cmd --reload

Test by pointing a browser at the IP_OF_BANANAPI

Now install MediaWiki:

cd /root
curl -O
gpg --verify mediawiki-1.26.2.tar.gz.sig mediawiki-1.26.2.tar.gz
cd /var/www
tar -zxf /root/mediawiki-1.26.2.tar.gz
ln -s mediawiki-1.26.2/ mediawiki
chown -R apache:apache /var/www/mediawiki
systemctl restart httpd.service

Finish setting up your MediaWiki Server by pointing a web browser at http://IP_OF_BANANAPI/mediawiki and finish setting up the Wiki.

Enjoy your own Wiki server.