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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Tue, 30 Apr 2019

How to get H.264 video working in Chromium on Fedora

I'm more comfortable using the Chromium web browser supplied by the Fedora team instead of Chrome as packaged by Google.

The only problem is that video doesn't generally work because the codecs that you might have installed so video works in Firefox don't work for Chromium.

The solution is to install the chromium-libs-media-freeworld package from the RPM Fusion Free repository.

If you haven't already added the RPM Fusion repos to your Fedora installation, I recommend you do it as soon as possible. (If you are a hard-charging software-freedom zealot, you already know why you do what you do or don't do.)

Once you have RPM Fusion hooked up, run this command to add the codec:

sudo dnf install chromium-libs-media-freeworld

Then restart Chromium, and you should be able to watch video from YouTube and others.

Sun, 21 Apr 2019

Google Cloud Platform uses storage 'buckets' to bring files into the system

I am attempting to create a Google Could Platform storage bucket instead of setting up FTP on this VM.

Later: I was able to create the bucket, and I can move files from that bucket to this website, but I can't seem to copy them the other way.

Sun, 07 Apr 2019

Running a small VM on Google Cloud is pretty much like running a small server anywhere

Google's "little" VMs, one of which I'm seemingly getting for free, at least for a year, can be run pretty much like any Debian Linux system. That's great if you're a Debian expert, not so great if you're not.

Luckily I know how to get around in Debian, and like pretty much everybody I can search (or "Google" if you will) for everything else.

One thing I can say is that the Google Cloud Platform virtual terminal, which opens in a web window, is very usable.

Much cloud pricing is complicated (barring those like Digital Ocean, which spell out what's going to cost you per month), but it appears that Google is giving us one "micro"-VM for free with no time limit as part of the "Google Platform Free Tier":

  • 1 f1-micro instance per month (US regions us-central1, us-east1 and us-west1 only)
  • 30 GB-months HDD
  • 5 GB-months snapshot in select regions
  • 1 GB network egress from North America to all region destinations per month (excluding China and Australia)

Somehow I either had to sign up for a credit. You can get a free shell without signing up, but to get the actual VM, you need to fork over a credit card number and "accept" the credit over one year. I'm not sure if/when/how I'll be charged, but I will definitely be keeping my eye on that.

My sites definitely consume more than 1 GB per month: In March 2019, http://stevenrosenberg.net used 4.69 GB, and http://updates.stevenrosenberg.net used 216 MB.

This is a compelling use case for Digital Ocean because that service offers VMs with 1 TB of bandwidth, which is 1000+ times what Google is offering for "free." The predictable, consistent yet low pricing is very attractive.

Still, there's something to be said for /home/public//cgi-bin/ode.cgi, and if I keep an eye on the bandwidth and charges, I'll see what kind of value proposition the Google Cloud Platform offers for smaller users.

How do you choose a cloud-computing platform?

There are so many cloud-computing platforms to choose from. I'm not so close to the industry that I can rattle off the names of even the top 10, but you have providers larger (Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Oracle) and smaller (Digital Ocean, Linode, Heroku) with offerings that seem wildly different.

I have no idea if Red Hat's cloud belongs in the "large" or "small" group, but I did use it in the pre-Kubernetes days, so it's definitely on my mind.

Trying to figure out the pricing of running your services/websites/etc on these clouds can be anything from easy to impossible. That's part of the game. Can you get along with a Digital Ocean "droplet," do you need 10 of them, or should you go for a mix of the many dozen products offered by Amazon's AWS?

Some cloud providers might be more "tailored" to your workloads, but how exactly do you find that out. Others tout a lack of "lock-in." And then there are things like price, security, reliability, usability and support.

So there's a lot to consider. For small users (and at least for this small user), you want it to work, you want to be able to figure things out, and you don't want billing surprises.

If you do anticipate growth, a provider that can work with you on that "journey" might be one to consider. Or you can just move your stuff from one service to another and hope for minimal downtime during those transitions. If you know what you're doing, maybe a sudden move (or even a gradual one, workload by workload) is realistic.

Given the explosion in cloud computing, there must be an exploding industry of consultants and admins working in this crowded and confusing space that's constantly shifting and growing right under our feet.