New Year

Pie chart by James Keuning from the Noun Project

It has been nearly a year since an updates post has been made; here are the highlights of the past year:

The GenWeb.io sites are mostly in maintenance mode – nothing bad has happened, at least, nothing which affects the software and operations of the sites.

Over the year we have added several new plugins and tools to the site, and are exploring others. A couple to highlight include TinyMCE Advanced, a visual editor which lets you see what a page or post will look like as you edit it, and WP-Piwik which adds the ability to connect your site to any Piwiki / Matomo server so you can see some information about how often your site is accessed. (GenWeb.io is also running an instance of this site statistics software, free for sites we host.)

We began the year with a push for better privacy.  All sites we host are using encrypted e-mail to communicate with their operators. There are still several outstanding issues in our push to improve privacy for our visitors:

    • Themes: Most themes use Google Fonts and other “free” internet resources, which track users’ browsers.
    • Captcha: We do not use Re-Captcha. We have a slider captcha which has worked extremely well for operators, but has not been updated in more than a year. A replacement tool is being sought.
    • Similarly, the WordPress-standard Akismet anti-spam tool also spies on website traffic, reporting it to a for-profit company.
power outage by Casey Ochinang from the Noun Project

Over the year we had multiple systems issues which resulted in short outages, starting with a 16 hour power outage New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day 2017 – our back-up power supply kept the server online for only 6.5 hours. Including a pair of planned hardware outages (one to physically move the server, the other for fan replacement) and more than 20 system reboots for kernel upgrades our uptime fell to just below 99%, our worst performance so far.

The server itself is also experiencing the effects of Intel’s Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, as well as simply aging. As you may be aware, addressing these two recently-reported vulnerabilities in CPU chips result in apparent performance reductions. Our server’s motherboard and chips are now three years old, which is three-fifths of a server life expectancy.

Email by Aly Dodds from the Noun Project

On another front, we moved registrars and DNS servers. For all but one subdomain this resulted in a 300 second outage. That one site was unavailable for 300 minutes (d’oh!) One side effect of this is we now have access to a full mailserver, so we can offer [yourname]ATgenwebDOTio addresses in the future.

Planned changes in the coming year include migration to a new ISP. New server hardware, assuming new Spectre-less chips become available at the hobbyist level. Experimentation with other CMS for GenWeb site support.

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