Category Archives: The Quay

So far, so good at ~100Mbps

After a few shenanigans with Rogers and Teksavvy, I managed to switch over to my cable Internet service yesterday.  Thankfully the only issues were administrative.  After 24 hours of service, I’m cautiously optimistic that my local segment doesn’t seem to be especially congested.

I’ve not quite cracked 100Mbps download speed in any of my tests, but I have been able to hit 98Mbps pretty consistently and I’m always hovering around 10Mbps up.  My ping times seem to stay to between 10-15ms to servers hosted in the downtown Toronto core.  This is up about 5-7ms from my DSL service, but I’m fortunate enough to have always had good ping times in artificial tests simply because of location and this doesn’t seem to be a showstopper.  I guess I’ll know more when I get a chance to sit down and play a few online games.

Last night during the supposed peak usage period, I was only seeing a drop in download bandwidth of 3-4Mbps at worst and barely any difference in upload bandwidth at all.  My latency did increase a little bit as well but never more than 5ms and most of the time it was closer to 1ms.

If this holds, then four times the bandwidth is a fair trade for not having the lowest ping on the server!  I thought I’d share this in case anybody else is considering Teksavvy cable as I found it incredibly hard to find anything other than horror stories which were clearly a result of unique circumstances when I was researching the switch.

Here’s a link to my Speedtest results if you are interested in a bit more detail.

100Mbps Internet Service

So for the first time at home I have what until relatively recently would have been viewed as LAN speed for my Internet service, and with an unlimited, and reasonably managed bandwidth policy.  I’m not an abusively high user, I’ve almost always stuck inside my current cap on my DSL service, but I do appreciate that a good service provider should manage their networks during extreme congestion.

My experience with Teksavvy has been positive enough over the years, I’ve been a customer since 2006, and I’ve only ever had one provider that was better and this was back in the .com bubble days when Ottawa was crawling with technically savvy and responsive providers!  So I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that they will not do anything naughty with their traffic shaping policies.   Continue reading

WordPress Child Themes

I’ve been using WordPress for this site for about 6 years and am generally quite happy with the fact that it “just works”.  I’ve been using a simple default theme (Twenty Twelve) for much of that time as well.  Recently I’ve been trying to be a bit more active on the blog and there are few (very minor) issues and personal taste differences I have with the theme which I’ve hacked out it of it.

I was doing some reading on how best to integrate SmugMug with the site since I’m on the verge of switching from Flickr for my personal photos and while I was doing this reading I discovered that there is a correct way of modifying themes for WP!  It’s actually quite elegant and avoids several potential problems.

I give you WordPress Child Themes.

A Blast From the Past

So this is a bit of a take 2 (3?)…  I recently recovered the database for the old community forum that used to be hosted on quay.net.  I had thought that it was completely lost due to a bad backup and crappy hard drive, but it turned out that I had a copy of the backups stored on my old laptop!

I don’t know if it’s something worthy of full resurrection yet, but at the very least I thought I’d migrate the data to BB software that was supportable and put the old content back up in case people would like to get at their old posts.

For the time being at least it can be found over here.

I’ll likely share this with people via some social media as well once I figure out what to do with the data.  If you’re returning, I’d encourage you to take a look at this post.

Apostrophes and the Ubuntu Font on OS X

Since I’ve breathed a bit life back into this blog, I was playing around with using Google Fonts, deciding to use the Ubuntu font as an example.  It turns out that this was a singularly unfortunate choice for testing!

There is a known issue (without an apparent resolution) which under certain circumstances can cause problems with rendering the apostrophe character.  In my case I was seeing small superscript 9 characters instead of apostrophes.

There is an example of the issue appearing in a different context on the Xojo forums.

The easiest solution in my case was simply to use a different font.  I wasn’t a big fan of how Ubuntu renders minuscule w anyway.

Getting SlickrFlickr to use the Flickr TLS API

Now that I’ve converted the site to use TLS, I’m going about replacing my old homebrewed Flickr plugin to use SlickrFlickr since it seems to be maintained and has similar, but extended, functionality.

I switched mostly so that I wouldn’t have maintain my own plugin, unfortunately I discovered after I finished setting up SlickrFlickr that it only returns the http scheme and not https scheme for the Flickr API.

Not to be too discouraged, I’ve created a simple fix for this and even though it’s a freemium plugin, I may submit a patch to the developer because it’s so simple.

There are three variables that contain the URL scheme in them:

# the variable $url in phpFlickr.php sets some image locations
sed 's/\$url = \"http/$url = \"https/g' wp-content/plugins/slickr-flickr/phpFlickr.php
# these strings also need to be changed in slickr-flickr-api-photo.php
sed -e 's/\$this->url = \"http/\$this->url = \"https/g' -e 's/\$this->link = \"http/\$this->link = \"https/g' wp-content/plugins/slickr-flickr/slickr-flickr-api-photo.php

I’ve actually implemented it as a check in my own local copy of the plugin by verifying the Apache server variables to figure out if the connection is HTTPS.  I just don’t currently have this implementation in patch format.  I will post it soon.

TLS for Everything

I’ve not posted in quite some time (I cringed when I realized it had been more than three years), but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been maintaining the software around these parts. It’s been strange, what little time I’ve made for non-recreational use of computers has been almost completely consumed with mundane details. Definitely the tail wagging the dog!

Anyway, I just thought I’d announce that I’ve converted everything on this domain to use TLS. Heartbleed made me realize that it was time I really tightened things up. I’ve been running the currrent configuration since 2008 with very few changes to the underlying platform. I’ve made two changes to implement this feature.

First, I’ve moved all of the HTTPS accessible content to https://quay.net/ and have removed all of the historical subdomains for different services (e.g.: the RPM repository — more on that in a future blog post). This is necessary unless you want to buy a wildcard X.509 certificate, which I don’t.

Secondly, this has resulted in a restructuring of the URLs for the aforementioned content. In most cases there is an automated redirect or error message, but if you’re searching out something that you have bookmarked let me know and I’ll help you out.

Flickr is Cool

I’m a pretty slow adopter of new “fad” Internet tools, particularly when it comes to so-called social media applications.  Though I don’t have any illusions regarding the level on anonymity anybody can have on the Internet these days (read none), I am not very comfortable with ease with which sites like Facebook merge one’s “private” and public lives by default.  As a result I tend to avoid anything that even smells like Facebook, thus I was very surprised when I started playing around with Flickr last week.  I’m so far behind the curve on Flickr that I think I can safely assume that nobody’s going to accuse me of being a trailblazer but I still thought it might be worthwhile to share.

I used to run a lot more software on my personal website but I just don’t have the time to maintain tools like Gallery with my current day job if I ever want to take some time off from being a sysadmin.  (Which I do!)  So I started looking at alternatives to Gallery in the WordPress plugin database and didn’t find anything I really liked but it gave me the idea that I should investigate using Flickr to host my images.  At any rate, after playing around with Dan Coulter’s phpFlickr class and fumbling my way through the Flickr API I’ve managed to cobble together a passable little photo gallery with all the backend content and meta data being stored on Yahoo! servers.  This also has the side benefit of reducing my bandwidth usage and hopefully speeding things up for remote users.  I’ll probably rework things someday once I actually read the Flickr API documentation and figure out a slightly more elegant way of doing things.

I’d post the code I wrote to create my galleries but I’m so rusty with PHP it would probably be a crime.  Once I clean things up a bit and standardize how I’m doing things I’ll try to make it available for anybody who might be interested, the only serious limitation of my approach is that it is not a full-fledged WordPress plugin so it requires the ability to execute inline PHP on WordPress pages to call my gallery function but it’s still fairly simple to do and doesn’t require much overhead compared to building and managing a local photo gallery.

I also integrated Lightbox into the photo galleries to make things look a little sharper.  I’m not completely sold on it yet but it’s not that hard to replace so I’m going to wait and see.

In any case, I just wanted to draw attention to the Flickr API and phpFlickr for anybody who might be trying to solve a similar problem.  They’re incredibly powerful and so far I’m quite happy.

You can see my Flickr photostream here.