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 Indiewebify.me 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 micro.blog 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 Micro.blog 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, micro.blog had verified me based on this rel=me stuff, but allegedly there was no track back, according to indiewebify.me. 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 blog.vanessahamshere.uk 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 micro.blog 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.

January 2018 books

Rupture (audiobook)

By Ragnar Jonasson
Read by Leighton Pugh

Started 29 December
Finished 1 January

Book three (chronologically) in the Dark Iceland series and even better than the first two. This book weaves several different story threads together in an interesting way. It's difficult to decide which is the main story, but it doesn't matter. I like spending time with the main characters in these stories and I enjoy the depiction of life in Northern Iceland. On to the next book now…

Whiteout (audiobook)

By Ragnar Jonasson
Read by Leighton Pugh

Started 1 January
Finished 3 January

Another good book, though I think Rupture was slightly better. This had plenty of interest, though; Ari Thor reuniting with his previous boss, the progress of his relationship with his girlfriend. The plot was fine, but didn't seem all that gripping. Still, overall an entertaining listen.

Nightblind (audiobook)

By Ragnar Jonasson
Read by Leighton Pugh

Started 4 January
Finished 5 January

There was a lot more intrigue in this novel than in the previous one and I enjoyed it more as a result. The story centres around the murder of the local police inspector and I didn't guess whodunit until it was revealed, which makes a change!
I found the main character's girlfriend rather annoyingly unsympathetic in this book, whereas I had started to warm to her in the previous one. I have enjoyed these books and hope there are more to come.

How to be Champion (audiobook)

By Sarah Millican
Read by Sarah Millican

Started 6 January
Finished 8 January

Thoroughly enjoyable book, although probably not if you don't like Sarah Millican's humour. I do, obviously, as I bought the book. I haven't bought any Russell Brand books…

This book is a humorous look at Millican's life and career to date, but it is set out in the form of a self-help book, with tips on "how to be champion" at the ends of chapters. It's not all hilarious, some of it is quite sad, and parts are quite shocking. Not surprising, given the state of society today, when people seem to think that anyone in the entertainment business is fair game. The tales she tells of abusive comments on Twitter is pretty grim. Overall, I found the book entertaining, uplifting and quite inspiring.

Harlequin/The Archer's Tale (audiobook)

By Bernard Cornwell
Read by Andrew Cullum.

Started 9 January
Finished 14 January

I picked this book because it was the first of the Grail trilogy and I'm a sucker for a Grail story. In this first novel it gets mentioned, but that is all. It centres around a young archer, Thomas of Hookton, following his progress as, after the French raid and destroy his town, he joins the English army and fights in France, at the start of the 100 years war. Not my usual book, although I read the early novels in the Saxon series by Cornwell. I enjoyed it though. The main character is quite compelling; far from perfect, very human, but I found myself rooting for him and sympathising with his situation. The novel ends with the battle of Crécy, which is described in some detail, but, fortunately, not to the point of boredom. I look forward to listening to the remaining books in the series.

The Shack (audiobook)

By William P Young
Read by Roger Mueller

Started 15 January
Finished 19 January

I read this book some years ago, along with a lot of other people, I expect. I fancied listening to it, so picked up the audiobook. On balance, I think it is better to read than to listen to, but I enjoyed this. Occasionally the narrator seemed to overdo things a bit, which almost detracted from the story. I preferred it when I read the book and occasionally went "ooh". I felt with the audiobook things were rather unsubtly signposted at times. Good to wind down with, though.

Vagabond (audiobook)

By Bernard Cornwell
Read by Andrew Cullum

Started 23 January
Finished 31 January

The second instalment of the grail trilogy (although there is a linked fourth book). This book develops the story a little - somewhat scarily at one point involving the torture of the main character, Thomas, by a Catholic priest. The character was thoroughly scary; and very well portrayed by the narrator, who made him seem really creepy.

As with most Cornwell novels, there is a lot of detailed description of a number of battles. It did occasionally feel as though the story was just a vague thread holding together tales of battles in the 100-years war. I'll see what the third book brings to the main plot. Not that I didn't enjoy the book - I did and I know what to expect from Cornwell, having read a number of his books over the years.