Archive for August, 2009

No More Not-So-Sticky Felt and Groaning Chairs

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Super SlidexAfter having gone through countless sticky “felt feet” for the chairs in our kitchen I’ve finally found a suitable replacement.

Over a month ago I installed Hickory Hardware’s casters. The ones I went with screwed into the bottom of the chair legs, the idea was that the screw would keep the sliders in place.

Immediately the chairs slide better than they ever had before, but the reason I wrote-up the blog posting is to record that after a month the screws have yet to turn to the dark side and scratch our tiles.

In summary, I’d highly recommend Madico Super Slidex sliding casters for almost any surface — check back in a year to see if I’ve put them on our chairs that live on wood surfaces.


Friday, August 28th, 2009

I’m a big fan of TextExpander. I’ve been using it since before it was purchased by Smile on My Mac Software and was called Textpander.

The basic concept is that you can type short key-commands on your Apple, like “ddate” which is automatically replaced with something like Friday; August 28, 2009. In that case saving 18 key-strokes and some thinking, but in other cases it can save thousands of words if you work with a lot boilerplate or things like code samples – another snippet I user a lot is my “hhtml” key-command that inserts a basic HTML web page, including a comment with the date. I also have a “llorem” key-command that gives be a bunch of lorem ipsum paragraphs.

It’s a great way to save time with boilerplate, pre-fill things, or even allow it to auto correct thoes typos that you make all teh time.
I know in my job I get the same question from different people very often and TextExapnder allows me to both offer myself as a contact for questions that range from the obvious to the very complex, but not be worn out by a monotony of remedial questions. TextExapander lets me respond quickly and move on to the real puzzles that I enjoy answering.

I resisted paying for the (previously about ten dollars more, now) $14.98 copy of TextExpander. What convinced me was the ability to subscribe to groups of snippets. I subscribe to Smile on My Mac’s typos group and I’ve also created my own group I maintain here. This keeps my Apple computers in sync, and recently, my iPhone!

Building-Up CentOS 5 Linux Operating System

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

HyperVM admin pageWhen setting up my VPS server there were a number of options for building it. The VPS admin tool gives you “virtual” control over the power switch and the ability to rebuild the server with a fresh OS image at any time. A2 Web Hosting has a few flavours of Linux to choose from: CentOS (the GPL-based rebuild of Red Hat’s Enterprise Server 5), Gentoo and Ubuntu. I went with CentOS as I use it at work, and Enterprise-Grade always seems good to me.

From here on I’ll assume that you know something about the command line, and that you’ve got a good SSH client like the OS X Terminal or Putty and a way to upload files via an SFTP client like Cyberduck or Filezilla.

One my first steps with a pristine Linux operating system is to create a folder called “backup” and an “etc_original” folder in there and copy all of the original etc folder files there for reference.
mkdir /backup
mkdir /backup_original
cp -r /etc/ /backup/etc_original

What you’ll need on your server

Depending on the install/image you use you may have everything you need right there, but here are the packages I install out of the gate:

First off I install the screen tool (more about screen at so that I can walk away and reconnect to this process, rsync for moving things and backing things up and telnet for testing ports/servers:
yum install screen rsync telnet
Make sure Apache’s installed and that we’ve got all the PHP modules we need:
yum install httpd php php-cli php-zip php-mysql php-mcrypt php-mbstring
Also get some SSL support:
yum install mod_ssl openssl
Install MySQL client and server:
yum install mysql mysql-server
Install the firewall
yum install iptables

Once all of those packages are installed you’ll need to set them up.

Setting up a server

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Since I just went through the process of setting-up my own self-managed VPS (virtual private server) system I figured I’d share my experience in the hopes that it will help someone else with some basic command-line comfort looking to gain control of their web hosting or being the process of scaling up.

This is the start of what I hope will be a brief series of blog posts describing the process.

I went with a VPS system because of the considerable cost savings over a full dedicated system and the ability to scale-up from a low-power system to a high-powered system. In fact, I did just that when I initially opted for the 128mb system, but found that I need 256mb. My VPS (and previously shared host) is A2 Web Hosting and they’ve been pretty good to work with.

Here’s what is currently running, I’ll go through each elements and how I’ve configured them:

  • CentOS 5 Linux Operating System


  • Google/Gmail for mail (and calendaring, etc.)
  • JungleDisk/Amazon Webservers for backup