Bringing it all home

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It’s been a busy weekend for me, and a very productive one at that! You see, in the early to mid 2000’s, I made use of an old, obsolete computer by installing Red Hat Linux and Apache on it to host my own web page. It’s been well over a decade since I’ve done that, and even though I’ve had this blog on a continuous basis since then, it’s provided by hosting that I pay for, and while the company has been very good and helpful with decent policies and very competitive prices, there are inherent limitations like the amount of disk space, amount of traffic per month, and number of SQL databases I can have. These limits are reasonable, but hosting my own sites on an old computer that’s still good enough for this job would save me a few bucks, remove all limitations, ensure that I cannot be censored (you can send all complaints to gopoundsalt@pquirk.com), and returns me to a hobby that’s more productive and enjoyable than wasting time on Facebook.

So I started with an old Hewlett Packard, originally a factory refurb I bought for cheap, upgraded the hard drive and video, and maxed out the memory on. I wanted to edit 4k video from my drone quad copter, but the HP Compaq small form factor struggled. Still, it is wonderfully energy efficient, making for an excellent personal web server.

My next stop was to install the latest version of Ubuntu Server Long Term Support, which is version 18.04.1. Red Hat Linux has long since moved on to Enterprise, and so costs money to run; I don’t need that sort of support, so Ubuntu will do nicely.

I configured my router so that my server is in DMZ so it’s accessible to the Internet, and explored my options for dynamic DNS. See, these days, our IP address can change from time to time, and a dynamic IP service keeps the Internet records up to date so that the domain name always points to the proper IP address. Turns out Google Domains can do this, so I transferred my test bed domain, paulq.org. It can take a few days to complete.

Ubuntu Server itself is simply the foundation, so my next stop was to install the Apache2 server and a SQL database to provide the foundation for things like WordPress. This was also easy to do. Finally, I installed and configured WordPress.

A lot has changed since the last time I ran a static web site. For example, there’s SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to ensure your connection is secure. My hosting company offered it for $20 a year. If you’re reading this on the old host, you will notice that the address bar indicates that your connection is not secure. If you’ve accessed this on my new self-hosted server, you may have seen an alarming message telling you the certificate was not verified. That’s because I learned how to generate my own certificate. You will need to add an exception to your browser if you’d like a secure connection (important if you want to leave comments).

I decided to add a GUI to my installation to make it easier to download files from my paid hosting provider directly to my new server; I went with a bare bones Lubuntu, and then installed Mozilla Firefox. However, most of my configuring my server has happened through a remote connection from my new computer via SSH, something else new I learned about this weekend.

My server desktop

Over time, I plan to migrate my other endeavors on over. To be honest, this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I’ve come to realize that Facebook was eating up all my time. Once I kicked Facebook to the curb, I’ve really learned a lot and became much more productive. Meanwhile, my wife Sally is spending the weekend updating her Microsoft Office skills with some self-learning, in hopes of pursuing new opportunities where she works. The Facebook free lifestyle is really working out!

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