Unexpected downtime / server upgrades

Well, it’s always frustrating when there is unplanned server downtime.

Today we upgraded the operating server operating system, and most of the server stack as well. This was expected to be a relatively brief outage after making backups of everything. Unfortunately the system upgrade took more than two hours, and another stretch of time for the 800+ packages involved. There are still a couple of sites offline awaiting non-essential manual over-rides.

For which I am deeply apologetic. I plan to address this over the next couple of weeks, developing an alternative model for system upgrades.

Slider captcha

Captchas are attempts to identify automated processes to keep them from abusing resources. The most common abuse of CMSes is spam – in comments, in forums, in usernames… if you can think of it, it has probably been tried as a method of spamming people.

Many of the methods used to combat spam are also problematic. One of the most common tools on the web is reCaptcha, a “free service” provided by Google. Like everything “free” on the internet, you are the product being sold. Google uses captcha to A) spy on your users, B) get them to ‘solve’ a problem (like identifying street signs) which they then use to improve their mapping software and data. In the past they ‘borrowed’ computer cycles to work on distributed computing problems, and they may do that again in the future. Other ‘free’ captcha services have had similar histories of privacy invasion and/or bandwidth/cpu theft.

GenWeb.io has limited bandwidth and storage, and encourages all County Coordinators to use methods to avoid spam and related abuses. CCs are encouraged to register an Akismet account and enable Akismet anti-spam, even though this gives WordPress.com some access to spy on visitors. They are also encouraged to use a captcha for at least registration and login, but preferably not a known bad-actor like Google’s reCaptcha. (The GenWeb.io site uses Slider Captcha, which as far as we know does not involve any spyware.)