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Paul Paradise

Reviving the Blog, 2021 Edition

If you're reading this, that means that you've (re)found my blog, which has been offline since mid 2019. The previous incarnation of it was hosted on a low-end box - a good place to find deals for cheap web hosting, but a lot of the services there are very fly-by-night. I paid $32 back in December 2017 for a year's access to a 4GB OpenVZ virtual machine through a company called HostMyBytes; I didn't expect it to be particularly performant or have great uptime, but for a personal site that seemed Good Enough. I ran a simple Wordpress blog on it and probably had a few other things available via SSH. It was even good enough to renew for a year.

In April 2019, I got an email that HostMyBytes was being acquired by AlphaRacks. I didn't think that much of it at the time, but at some point shortly thereafter AlphaRacks simply disappeared off the internet, taking my website with it. Of course I didn't have backups.

I honestly didn't have a good reason to revive it. I think I'd written a single blog post in the prior decade. Every once in a while a friend would tell me that my domain name seemed broken, but I just never took the time to revive it - until now.

In bringing it back, I decided to try a few things out:

  1. I wanted to revive as much of the content as possible. Not that I think there's a lot of valuable content in my back catalog of posts, but I consider myself a digital archivist and given it's so cheap to store, why not have it around just in case I want to go back and see what I was thinking about circa 2003?
  2. I wanted this site to be extremely low maintenance if I choose to ignore it for a few years. Given it took me years to revive this blog, I wanted to minimize the chance it would break again and require more of my time.
  3. I wanted it to be easy to backup and transform the content to match future needs. In case things did break, or I wanted to change how it was setup, it should be easy to migrate the content to whatever the next platform is.

For me, this naturally led me in the direction of static site generators. I was looking for something that'd support a repository of markdown documents representing blog posts, transform it into some decent-looking HTML, and then find a web hosting option that only needs to host static content. I ended up with Zola and Vercel for the generator and hosting platform, respectively. The rest of this post goes into some of the details about what I thought setting it up.

IRONMAN Washington 70.3 Race Recap

Normally, most people write up their race recaps in the hours after their race (or maybe a day or two later) - call me a slacker, but here I am doing it a full 3 weeks later...

I just had a surprisingly positive experience with Google Calendar support

A month or two ago, they rolled out a new (very slick, IMO) calendar UI that broke one feature: the ability to type the time of an event in the description and have it update the actual time, stripping it from the description as you save. I used the Send feedback functionality to tell them I dearly missed this feature, fully expecting it to go into a void of too many problem reports.

This morning I got an email quoting my original request, and a note that it’s implemented now with instructions on how to use it. It was clearly a form letter sent to more than one person, but the fact that they sorted feedback granularly enough to respond like this is pretty good.

Screenshot

Sigg customer service

Sigg has had a two pressworthy incidents of bad news lately: one that their older bottles weren’t BPA-free as advertised, and a second that the credit cards of a number of their customers were stolen.

I’m among the supposed stolen credit cards. A bit of context: Sigg was using Network Solutions (the original domain name seller before others joined in the race, and still an overpriced waste) for credit card processing. It wasn’t actually Sigg’s website that was compromised, it was the site they used internally to handle credit cards and other payments. As someone who works on websites for a living, I have some sympathy for them – it’s really an unfortunate event that’s out of their control. In fact, I actually got two notifications from Network Solutions – another site other than Sigg suffered the exact same compromise. I certainly wasn’t blaming Sigg for the loss.

So imagine my surprise when I got a box from them, with a free Sigg water bottle in it and a letter apologizing for Network Solution’s screwup. I’m pretty happy with the outcome; I didn’t expect more than the legally-required notification, so seeing them do more than just hide behind their ecommerce partner’s faults was a nice touch.