March 2018 books

I've had a bit of a 1980's-referencing kick in March, to judge by most of my listening.

Tonight You're Dead

By Viveca Sten
Narrated by Angela Dawe

Started 9 March
Finished 12 March

A further book in the series of murder mysteries set in the Stockholm archipelago, primarily on Sandhamm. I enjoy these, as they are gentle books (for ones containing murder). I don't think this was the best one I've read/listened to, but enjoyable.

We Are Legion (We are Bob) (audiobook)
For We Are Many
All These Worlds

by Dennis E Taylor
Narrated by Ray Porter

Started 12 March
Finished 23 March

Having read all three of these books in succession it made sense to lump them together, not least because I loved them all equally. Thoroughly entertaining science fiction, full of attitude and snarky humour. I shall miss the Bobs.

In short, a guy is killed, having signed up to have his head frozen after death. Then he wakes, to find he is now a disembodied mind who is in line to be put in charge of a spaceship. Off he goes, clones himself, and gets involved in colonisation of other planets, battles in space, romance, saving alien species, to list just a few of his adventures. There is plenty of humour, some scary parts and some beautifully touching bits. I loved the humour, plus the frequent references to popular culture during the time Bob was alive. Clones and new worlds named after astronauts, tv Sci Fi characters and locations, Sci Fi novels (or not quite, as in book 3 when a planet is mis-named by the omission of a letter).

I'm sure the books are good, but the audiobooks are brilliant. The narration is superb; each "Bob" is identifiable, without becoming comical. Some of the most entertaining readings I've listened to. Unless you loathe Sci Fi and/or have no sense of humour, I would highly recommend these books.

Ready Player One

by Ernest Cline
Narrated by Wil Wheaton

Started 26 March
Finished 29 March

I enjoyed this, particularly the narration by Wil Wheaton. A few times I felt the writing was a little repetitive and occasionally a tad boring. For the most part, though, it was an entertaining listen. The references to the 1980s was fun, much as it was in the previous three book I listened to. I don't know that this is a particularly memorable book, but certainly enjoyable enough to keep me listening rather than watching tv.

A purple patch

It's not a secret that I'm rather partial to the colour purple, although I am fussy about my purples. Not too pink, thank you. This week I was alerted to a new purple ink, Flower of Scotland, from Pure Pens so I just had to buy it. I have my eye of some more of the inks in their range, too, although Celtic Sea was the only one of them in stock at the time.

The inks arrived the day after I ordered them and I am rather pleased with them both. Flower of Scotland sits in between my Diamine Imperial Purple (a bit pink for me) and my Monteverde Charoite (I love this ink, as I do the other five Monteverde inks I have). I like it. It is nice and rich. Possibly not as office-friendly as Diamine Bilberry, but hey. It's coming a very close second to my beloved Charoite.

Oh, I also have J Herbin Larmes de Cassis and Poussière de Lune, but didn't feel that they really belonged in this, admittedly brief, comparison.

Traditional writing sample below, utilising some of my favourite quotes.


Adventures in web-land (6)

Sadly not a great deal of progress this weekend. I had planned to work on adding the webmentions and semantic linkback plugins, but illness has forced a day in bed today.

As ever, help has been forthcoming from those further down the Indieweb road.

After adding my various internet presences to my WordPress blog, and vice versa, I ran my site through to see how I was doing. Only my GitHub and Twitter accounts tracked back and got me a tick in the box, as it were. I checked my syntax, but nothing changed. Oh, I got "verified" on but that doesn't track back, either. I left things, there, feeling a little discouraged. It turns out that pretty much only Twitter and GitHub do actually return the favour. So if you don't have an account on one of those two services you fail step 1? I couldn't find anything in the Indieweb documentation that explained this. The answer came from the Indiewebcamp Slack. Still, at least that exists!

I set the iOS Microblog app to post to my WordPress site rather than to my Microblog hosted site. It posted perfectly: a status post with no title. Unfortunately, when the RSS feed got sent back to it arrived as a post number and a link. Not what I intended at all. It would appear that the indieweb-compatible SemPress theme inserts the post number: it's visible in the WordPress admin panel. It doesn't display on the published site, but somehow it's there.

I have been given some code to insert which will strip out titles on status posts from the RSS feed - when I'm at a computer that will be something I try next. This needs to be a toggle in the theme, if it's going to be easy to understand for the average person.

From my recent experience it seems there is a need for a fully compatible WordPress theme. Or maybe I shouldn't have opted to go with WordPress. I really felt that this was a happy halfway house, though. I'm not about to run my own server, nor do I have the skills required to run other blogging software on my Dreamhost space.

Onwards and upwards.

Adventures in web-land (5)

They do say time flies when you're having fun. That'll be where the last four hours have gone then.

I updated some settings in the site I was having problems with and they seemed to work. I changed the .htaccess file and the wp-config file and things stopped working. There must have been an issue with the .htaccess file so I renamed it and generated a new one. I have to say, the various help pages on the Internet have been suitably useful. Now everything seems to load, although not as https, which was the aim of the exercise. Hmm.

On the other site, the one I most want to use, I installed the SemPress theme, messed around with various parts of it to get it looking halfway reasonable, then moved on to Indiewebbing it. I have managed to get some of my sites to link back successfully, now I've realised how picky it all is - just putting x-dot-com is no good if it's https:// as that seems to need to be specified. At the point my desire for food overcame my desire to continue, had verified me based on this rel=me stuff, but allegedly there was no track back, according to I might try again later. In theory, though, I'm verified. And hungry…

Adventures in web-land (4)

A summary of things learnt this week.

• Don't use Cloudflare if you want SSL.
• If you want SSL the certificate will sit at the root of your domain, so it makes sense to point www there.

When you add a domain in Dreamhost as fully hosted (without which you seem to be limited as to what you can do) it creates some zone file records (some, not many), one of which is the www subdomain. That makes sense, as people tend to see them as being the same thing. However, one of the first questions asked is about keeping root and www separate, forwarding root to www, or forwarding www to root. Please excuse any inaccurate terms. Dreamhost refers to it as "replacing", my registrar talks of permanent forwarding and browser errors talk of "redirects".

I wanted SSL - it's the main reason some of my other sites go through Cloudflare. It's an option on the main screen here. Dreamhost installs a Lets Encrypt SSL certificate on the bare domain, no choice is given. Fair enough, makes sense. No wildcards are supported and the certificates are free, so they can be installed on each/any subdomain. How to put one on www? Not a clue. I couldn't find a way. So if you forward the bare domain to www it shows up as non-secure. This doesn't appear to be explained at all.

Cloudflare - apparently it and Dreamhost are partners. So, if you opt to run through Cloudflare, Dreamhost handles it all for you. On my other sites my registrar's control panel pretty much says "nope, you're using Cloudflare's nameservers, up yours, deal with stuff there". Which is fine, any changes you want can be made in your Cloudflare account. I changed my mx settings, added a load of CNAME entries (as instructed by Fastmail) and all was fine. Setting up Fastmail had been one of the easiest things I've done for some time. With Dreamhost you have to make any changes through their interface. Probably nice and straightforward, but less so for me. Not least because Dreamhost refused to let me add more than one CNAME record. My email works though. Big relief.

Dreamhost will tell you that Cloudflare requires you to forward to www. So you have to select that at the start. Did you want SSL? See earlier. It's on the bare domain, but you will be displaying www. At one point I couldn't even load my site because I got "too many redirects". Cloudflare is no longer enabled.

I don't mean this to sound as if I'm not happy with my hosting; far from it. This is just intended to show the issues I have had. Maybe I was overthinking things. I'm no web designer, just a user with a little knowledge (I know - a dangerous thing).

Of course, I could well be wrong about all of this, but at least I can log in to my (as yet unused) WordPress sites.

February 2018 books

With all the excitement (?) of playing with t'internet and things webby this week, I almost forgot to bore the world (or, more likely, nobody) with the list of books consumed in the last month.

Heretic (audiobook)

By Bernard Cornwell
Read by Andrew Cullum

Started 1 February
Finished 5 February

The final volume in the grail trilogy. Eventually the main plot got resolved, right at the very end of the story. I felt this book was centered on battles even more than the first two; maybe that was the cumulative effect though. Definitely time for a break from Cornwell, though I have enjoyed the books and the narration has been excellent.

A gathering storm (audiobook)

By Rachel Hore
Read by Geri Halligan

Started 5 February
Finished 8 February

Rather underwhelmed by this, so I doubt I'll read any more by this author. The story was pleasant enough, a young woman listening to the tale of an old lady's history, which turned out (not exactly a great surprise) to be entwined with that of the younger woman's family. I didn't particularly warm to any of the characters, which meant the book didn't really good my attention all that well. The narration was fine, though, very well done.

Bryant and May and the Invisible Code (audiobook)

By Christopher Fowler
Read by Tim Goodman

Started 8 February
Finished 15 February

Full of fun as usual, along with detailed knowledge of London and main characters of whom most readers are very fond. This story started with a murder (don't they all), wandered through the troubles of being a "Government wife", laid out a number of misdirects and, for me, ended up somewhere rather unexpected. One of the more enjoyable stories, including sub-plots about biological weapons.

Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart (audiobook)

By Christopher Fowler
Read by Tim Goodman

Started 16 February
Finished 22 February

An intriguing tale, this one. A little gruesome, starting as it did with what appeared to be a risen corpse. This is Bryant and May though… As ever, Bryant goes off on his own tangent, delving into some rather dark magic/mysticism. In the end the puzzle is solved, winning over an influential person, and the Peculiar Crimes Unit lives on.

Pompeii (audiobook)

By Robert Harris
Read by Steven Pacey

Started 23 February
Finished 26 February

Immediately on starting this book I thought the narration seemed rather fast. A shame, as I generally like Steven Pacey's voice. After while, though, I adjusted and thoroughly enjoyed the story. As is often the way with Harris, I start and, for a while, wonder if I will continue. Soon enough, though, I'm thoroughly engrossed in the story. This covers a fairly short period just before Vesuvius erupted. It follows a newly-appointed engineer, who is in charge of the aqueduct serving the area. The previous post-holder (the Aquarius) has disappeared. The new man faces resentment and resistance from his staff. Pretty soon he realises something is wrong and starts to investigate. We all know the outcome, but the story was still enjoyable.

Adventures in web-land (3)

Thanks to a suggestion from a friend on social media, both the WordPress sites I installed are accessible, showing as secure and I can log in to the admin panels. The solution? Disabling Cloudflare. I could then redirect www to the bare domain, where the SSL certificate lives and all the redirect issues went away. The only reason I opted to use Cloudflare was habit: I run some other sites through it purely to pick up the free SSL certificate they provide, nothing else.

Step 1 of many seems to be complete. I now have a lot of reading to do - and a blog theme to select!

Adventures in web-land (2)

It's the morning after the night before and certain things appear to have settled down. My bare domain (and it's allegedly mandatory www redirect) now seem to load and bring up https displaying the www address.

Email is still working - go Fastmail, I'm pretty pleased with them.

My "blog." subdomain still seems to be a bit random. I'm pretty sure I didn't forward to www on this, whilst still opting for Cloudflare - which rather contradicts what I was forced to do with the main domain. Mind you, as it's a subdomain, I don't see why it should have a www sub-subdomain, that doesn't seem logical. However, in order to get hosting for it I had to add it to Dreamhost separately from the main site. The options panel was exactly the same as for the bare domain, when I don't think it should be.

I did originally add a CNAME entry pointing to the Microblog hosted site it is set up for. When I tried to verify the WordPress installation last night I got a 404 error, so I deleted the CNAME entry, as it seems to require me to verify the WordPress installation at a published site, which strikes me as a bit odd. I would have thought I could work on it offline, without pointing it to the world. I suspect I need to read more about how to do that, and the default is for Dreamhost to publish you as quickly as possible.

This morning comes up with the WordPress landing page, so the removal of the pointer to my Microblog page has worked. However, it doesn't have https, so perhaps I'm still waiting for that to happen. When I go to the link to verify the WordPress installation I no longer get a 404 error, instead I get a message saying the browser can't open the page because too many redirects occurred. Something to leave for later, I guess - the day job calls! It mildly amuses me that the site that has nothing redirected comes up with a "too many redirects" error.

Watch this space…

Adventures in web-land (1)

Well, dear reader, this could be the first of many posts on this topic…

I finally took the plunge and purchased some web hosting, with the intention of learning something about the subject and, hopefully, some things Indieweb, via a WordPress blog.

It started off quite well - signing up and spending money was easy enough, of course.

I added the domain I wanted to use, updated my registrar's nameservers to point to Dreamhost, nothing too taxing so far.

I added in the various records I needed for my Fastmail account. As long as that continues to work I'll be no worse off. Although, even then, Fastmail gave me three CNAME records to add, but Dreamhost would only let me add one. No idea why, as previously I'd added all three to Cloudflare for this domain.

When adding the domain to hosting, I opted to use Cloudflare, as I already have an account there and Dreamhost is an official partner. That meant that I was forced to use a redirect from the bare domain to www. Also ok, I thought, as my main blogs currently have that in place, so I can point to the AWS servers they are hosted on. The bare domain can only contain an A record; I learnt that when my provider moved from static IPs to AWS. All ok so far.

I then decided I'd like security on the site. Dreamhost provides LetsEncrypt certificates for free and does it all for you. Fine, click and it shall be done.

I installed WordPress and got that set up. My site showed the basic welcome page. Superb. Time for bed and to revisit this all at a later date. Until the site failed to load, giving me security and certificate warnings, with the browsers eventually refusing to serve up the site at all.

I'm confused and the only thing I can think is that the certificate has been applied to the bare domain, which redirects to the unsecured www subdomain. No problem, request a certificate for www. Can't. Can't add it as a hosted subdomain because Dreamhost says it already has a record of it. It probably does but I have yet to work out how I can secure it,

I went through similar processes with my "blog." subdomain but that has a 404 error message now, most likely because removing its pointer to my hosted hadn't propagated through yet.

Tomorrow is another day and I guess that if nothing ever went wrong I'd not learn much. There has to be a solution as I don't think.I'm trying to set up anything too unusual.

18-02-2018 1

Test post for microblogging, to see if I can work round mandatory post titles.