2020-07-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-10-26 11:07:42 UTC (SPIDs: [1408..1450])
2020-10-26 12:33:18 UTC --martyb
We always have a place for talented people, visit the Get Involved section on the wiki to see how you can make SoylentNews better.
We had an outage this morning -- "Internal Server Error" would appear when trying to load the main site.
I noticed this at about 0945 UTC from my mobile phone and immediately TXTed a message to "The Mighty Buzzard" (aka TMB) alerting him of the situation. Of course, it being 0545 EDT, he was sound asleep like any sane person would be.
I then booted up my computer and accessed "#Soylent" on IRC; discovered others were already aware. It appears to have been first noted at 05:42:57 UTC by "SoyCow8732". That was followed not long after by "c0lo" and "lld". Soon after, "chromas" was on the scene and tried bouncing the front ends, but no joy. He sleuthed around and concluded it was likely a mysql error, but our configuration is... interesting and it was non-obvious on how to restart things.
My hands were mostly tied as only a few days ago I managed to mess up Windows on my main system and would get a BSOD whenver I tried to boot it. I looked on from a system booted from a Ubuntu Live CD (well actually, a USB stick).
Eventually, TMB appeared, took stock of the situation, and was able to get things running again in pretty short order. Thanks Buzz!
Synopsis (AIUI) our installation of Mysql is setup so that there are redundant copies of the DB running on two different servers. The intent is to provide redundancy so that if one instance goes down, the other can take over and carry things along until the failing system is recovered. That's great in theory, but not so good in practice. Thankfully, it does [mostly] work. We are continuing to monitor the situation. Be assured this is working its way of the priority queue! I mean, who likes to wake up and debug server issues before their first cup of coffee?
So, that's my take on it. I'll leave it to TMB to add details/corrections should he deem it necessary.
The Mighty Buzzard writes:
Congrats to the wannabe APK noobtard for advancing the site's codebase despite me having extremely limited time to play. I added three lines of code and now Spam modded comments (and comment trees) auto-collapse and you can still moderate a comment as Spam even if it's already at the minimum score. Honestly, the folks using any other downmod on obvious Spam annoy me more than the noobtard does but that annoyance at least is now history. Changes are to hot code only, I'll put them in the repo as part of my next pull request.
Suck it, noob. --TMB
The month of August is winding to a close. Here are a few updates on site activity. If you are interested, please read on after the fold. Otherwise, a new story will be along shortly.
As I write this, The Mighty Buzzard is in the process of rebuilding three of our Gentoo servers: lithium (our development server; hosts https://dev.soylentnews.org/), aluminum (our eventual replacement for beryllium which is our sole CentOS server), and magnesium (which is one of our two load balancers; the other is sodium). All rebuilds are in progress and happening in the background. The only user-noticeable impact should be a brief outage when the dev server reboots. That is anticipated to occur later tonight (EDT). Thanks Buzz!
[TMB Note]: It's just installing boring old OS updates. Nothing you guys actually use should be impacted in any way.
First off, it's my pleasure to welcome Subsentient back to editing duties on SoylentNews after a bit of a hiatus. We look forward to his contributions to the site! Also, it gives me great pleasure to announce that chromas just posted his 1,200th story! And with that accomplishment, it also marks his moving up to 9th place among our Most Active Authors on the site's Hall of Fame! Congratulations! That represents a great commitment of time and energy in support of SoylentNews. (Not to mention his systemd bot on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) which offers several commands that make our jobs as editors so much easier. Thanks chromas!
Folding@Home is a distributed computing project that leverages spare computing resources on participant's computers. The majority of those resources are now being applied to better understand the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus which causes COVID-19. The current statistics reveal over 25 million cases world-wide with over 850,000 deaths. Note that many survivors have reported experiencing long term, debilitating consequences. Also, there is not just one virus. It has been mutating as it spreads, so continued monitoring and analysis is required to keep on top of things.
Back to F@H, it is my pleasure to report that Runaway1956 is now at the top of our team's standings with 396,857,185 Credits and 11,702 Work Units completed. That makes him the 2,461th-highest, single contributor in the world. Thank-you so much for your efforts in helping to fight this terrible disease!
We are two months into the second half of the year. So far, we have netted $744.16 towards our goal of $3,500.00 for site expenses... that's 21.3% of what we need to pay for the servers, business fees and taxes, accountant, etc. For those who have subscribed, please accept my genuine and sincere thanks! It bears repeating that nobody at SoylentNews has ever received even one cent for their contributions to the site. All staff freely volunteer their spare time and energy to keep things running.
Many, many thanks to the community who supports SoylentNews by submitting and moderating comments. Thanks, especially, to those who have submitted stories. YOU are what makes SoylentNews happen. It is a privilege to serve you. Thank you for supporting my efforts as Editor-in-Chief; I hope to continue to earn your trust in the days and years that lie ahead!
The Mighty Buzzard writes:
Yeah, so, failure to babysit the db node that was scheduled for a reboot on the 5th resulted in a bit of database FUBAR that left us temporarily losing everything from then to now. Fortunately we had a backup less than six hours old, restored from it, and appear to be copacetic now. Except for the missing five hours and change.
I'd usually make some sort of dumb joke here but it was already four hours past my bedtime when I found out about the problem. My brain is no work good anymore. Fill in whatever dad joke or snark about getting a do-over for a change strikes your fancy.
I recently received a message from our Treasurer and updated financial statements. I've taken this opportunity to put this out to the community. While I was at it, it seemed like a good time to take a look at things and provide an update to the community on where we're at and how we're doing. If you are not interested in this kind of stuff, a new story will be along before too long. Otherwise, more will be revealed after the break.
First off, I always hesitate when writing one of these stories. There are so many people who make SoylentNews happen and I know I'll leave someone out. These guys do so so much I can't keep up with all of it! If I've omitted anyone, it's strictly my mistake and I mean no disparagement to anyone's contributions! So, I extend my thanks to everyone who makes this site happen each and every day!
Hiccup: Worst things first, we had a "hiccup" on SoylentNews.org at about 03:00 UTC this morning (2020-08-05). Some pages loaded without CSS (i.e. bare text with limited or no formatting). Other pages would not load at all. Some people received "500 Server Error" messages. TheMightyBuzzard examined the situation, bounced the front-end servers, and restarted Apache. From what I can tell, it also took a restart of two of our servers (helium and magnesium). This seems to have cleared the gremlins that were interfering with site operations. Thanks TMB!
Spam: We recently experienced a couple bouts of "Spam" postings. Staff is not the "thought police". Obviously, we would have to abide by a lawful order like a DMCA notice. Otherwise, we provide the tools so the community can police things themselves. If you have registered a nickname on the site, you can customize your view of the comments posted here. If you want to see all comments except those that have been moderated as Spam, Give a "+1" moderation adjustment to all comments except apply a "-6" moderation adjustment for "Spam". Then set your "Threshold" and "Breakthrough" to 0 (zero).
Yes, we are aware that top-level comments still get expanded by default. Changing this behavior is near the top of the list of planned future enhancements to the site.
Finances: I received a report from our treasurer, Matt_, that I would like to share with the community:
I have just updated the books and prepared the attached financial statements (Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Statement) for our Fiscal Year 2019 (July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020). As you can see from the P&L Statement, whereas we ended the previous fiscal year with a net loss of $1,057.97, we ended FY2019 with net income of $1,348.05 (clearly much better, and if we can keep this up going forward, we should be in good shape). Turning to the Balance Sheet, we ended FY2019 with a total of $5,008.20 cash on hand, which gives us a runway of approximately 10 months, given our burn rate of about $6,000 per year. This, of course, assumes no significant change (increase or decrease) in our expenses going forward.
I have uploaded these to the Finances page on our Wiki.
It bears mentioning that our initial seed capital of $10,000.00 was contributed by Matt_ and NComander by way of equal share purchases of stock in SoylentNews PBC. So, we are still down about $5,000 from our starting balance. Still, I am most pleased with the improved cash flow situation and thank all those who have Subscribed.
Story Submissions: There have been over 42,500 stories submitted to SoylentNews, of which over 32,840 have been accepted. I cannot thank you all enough for your contributions to the site! I well remember a time when there were two editors on IRC tag-teaming on finding story submissions, pushing stories out, and 2nding them for the community. That made for many late and exhausting nights. For those who may be new here, all staff here are volunteers; nobody has ever been paid anything for their work on the site. We have the same kinds of demands on our time as everybody else: work, family, relationships, etc. From what spare time we have, we try to keep the site up and running with stories that we think will be of interest to the community. We are fortunate to have such highly-skilled and selfless people on staff who not only believe in SoylentNews, but make sacrifices to help keep it a going concern. I hereby express my gratitude for all their efforts!
Note Bene: There is an artifact on the "Most Active Submitters" section of SoylentNews' Hall of Fame page — it omits story submissions made by Authors (aka Editors) as well as those made by Anonymous Cowards. I generated a complete list of the top 20 for our site. I hereby publicly thank takyon for his continuous contributions. I know when I see a submission from him that it is "production ready" — just a quick review of links and it's good-to-go. Not content to rest on those laurels, he has also pushed out 1354 stories which puts him in 6th place on the Most Active Authors list. Thanks so very much takyon!
Expand below for details:
mysql> SELECT COUNT(*) AS c, users.nickname
-> FROM stories, users
-> WHERE users.uid=stories.submitter
-> GROUP BY users.uid
-> ORDER BY c DESC LIMIT 20
| c | nickname |
| 5699 | takyon |
| 5656 | Anonymous Coward |
| 3425 | Phoenix666 |
| 2401 | upstart |
| 1439 | MrPlow |
| 1436 | Arthur T Knackerbracket |
| 1114 | AnonTechie |
| 894 | martyb |
| 731 | Papas Fritas |
| 586 | Fnord666 |
| 539 | canopic jug |
| 400 | lhsi |
| 317 | RandomFactor |
| 310 | tonyPick |
| 301 | butthurt |
| 246 | frojack |
| 240 | janrinok |
| 217 | n1 |
| 205 | c0lo |
| 148 | mendax |
20 rows in set (16.73 sec)
Editors: Also known as "Authors" (no, I don't know why). We are the more public face of the site. We have taken on the task of reviewing and selecting story submissions and then editing them to try to provide a consistent "feel" to the site. SoylentNews' founding was based, in part, on the powers-that-be at Slashdot failing to listen to the community and insisting on rolling out a "Beta" version of their site. We take our responsibility to provide a consistent look-and-feel seriously. Yes, we've made mistakes along the way, but we try to learn from them.
Our Alternate Editor-in-Chief Fnord666 has been pushing out about 5 stories a day, every day, for a long while now. I'd hate to imagine where we'd be without his continued and selfless contributions! Thanks Fnord666! I'd also like to recognize chromas' editorial contributions. It takes a while to build confidence as an editor and to face the potential backlash of mistakes being put in front of thousands of intelligent (and opinionated) nerds and geeks! An extra story a day makes a big difference and I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank him for his contributions. But, there's more! Behind the scenes, chromas is quick to conjure up and refine IRC tools that make our jobs as editors so much easier. His IRC bot makes it so much easier to submit stories, perform searches on Google and YouTube, and generate journal citations. I'd hate to imagine continuing on without them! Thanks chromas! We occasionally get visits from mrpg on IRC and some 2nding of stories which is much appreciated. Our editor-in-chief emeritus, janrinok, is on a sabbatical while providing medical support for a family member. He wishes he had more free time to contribute to the site and sends his best wishes to all. It bears repeating, here, the numerous contributions of takyon. He's a solid and constant contributor and I can't thank him enough for all his hard work!
Lastly, if I've counted correctly, this marks my 9,000th story on SoylentNews. It has been a distinct privilege and honor to serve the community as your Editor-in-Chief. I am ever reminded of the adage: Standing on the shoulders of giants. Those who originally got the site up and running. Who set the tone and established the procedures for running the site. Who did the necessary legal work to get us established as a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC) so that we could accept subscriptions and thereby fund our continuous operations. And the list goes on and on. We have come a long way since we went live on February 14th, 2014!
I have learned so much from the staff here, from all the stories we've published, and the comments that the community has provided. I try to do my best each day to fulfill the trust you've placed in me; I hope my efforts have been acceptable.
In a word: teamwork++
Folding@Home: "Folding@home is a distributed computing project aimed to help scientists develop new therapeutics to a variety of diseases by the means of simulating protein dynamics. This includes the process of protein folding and the movements of proteins, and is reliant on the simulations run on the volunteers' personal computers."
SoylentNews has a F@H team which is currently ranked "317 of 254,500". When it was announced that F@H would pivot to help with research of the SAR-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19, many heavy hitters joined up. Names you'd recognize like like AWS, Microsoft (Azure), Oracle, SAP, and many other large compute services brought their spare compute capacity to bear. Summit, one of the largest supercomputers in the world, has even been set to the task.
In light of the increased competition, it's all the more amazing how our team has held up! Here's another view of the team's status. Our current points production leaders are Runaway1956 and NCC74656 who are running neck-and-neck with each producing over 2.2 million points a day! Thank you!
I rolled out an improvement to the site's message processing template. =)
(1) Based on a user preference, the site can send a message to inform you someone had replied to a comment you had posted. The message *now* contains links that take you directly to the *comment* instead of to the *story*. The message appears at https://soylentnews.org/my/inbox
(2) I made a mistake rolling out the change which will show up as extra text (__seclev__ 500 __version__ $Id$) below the text of the message. That was live for about an hour and is now fixed. I apologize for my error.
(3) Enjoy the added convenience!
(4) Also just added &noupdate=1 to the links to your comment and the reply so clicking on one reply won't mark every comment on the story as read anymore.
Read on for more details, if you are curious.
Previously, when you got a message that a user had replied to a comment you posted, you'd get links in the message that took you to the *story*. Then, you'd have to scroll down to see the actual comment. *Now*, clicking on either link takes you directly to the *message*, itself. It might help to see an example:
The Mighty Buzzard has posted a comment, Re:resolution choice, in reply to your comment, resolution choice, attached to Fraunhofer HHI Announces Finalization of H.266/VCC Codec, With Up to 50% Bitrate Reduction vs. H.265.
The Mighty Buzzard has posted a comment, Re:resolution choice, in reply to your comment, resolution choice, attached to Fraunhofer HHI Announces Finalization of H.266/VCC Codec, With Up to 50% Bitrate Reduction vs. H.265.
Though they *appear* the same, as *text*, the *links* under "Re:resolution choice" and "resolution choice" are different.
Unfortunately, I made a mistake in updating the *in-memory* copy of the template (default;comments;reply_msg). I accidentally included text that is needed in the template *file* (/rehash-master/plugins/Messages/templates/reply_msg;comments;default)
The Mighty Buzzard noticed the error and was instrumental in tracking it down. (Thanks Buzz!)
Any messages that were *generated* during this time (today between 1400-1500 UTC give-or-take) will show:
__seclev__ 500 __version__ $Id$
at the bottom of the message text.
Newly *generated* new messages (I.e. after 1500 UTC) should be back to normal; I apologize for any inconvenience my mistake caused.
(That said, I'd prefer you think it was part of my Sooper Sekret plan to get TMB to help test my changes! =)
On June 29th, I posted a story that shared our financial status and asked for the community's support. And did you ever! As noted in that story:
So far, we have had 106 subscriptions this year which have netted us an estimated $2,794.92 (after processing fees from Stripe/Paypal) towards our goal of $3,500.00.
In short, we needed $705.08 to cover our expenses for the first half of the year (2020H1).
I am ecstatic to report that we not only covered that shortfall, but raised an additional $1254.52.
See the Subscription FAQ for a list of subscriber benefits. (Note: this is bit old; please mention in the comments if you find anything that is incorrect.)
The extra will go towards covering shortfalls from prior periods, help build our "rainy day" fund, and help us to be able to repay the $10,000.00 that our founders put up to get SoylentNews started.
I'll leave the first-half-year stats up in the "Site News" box for a few days before resetting it for the second half of the year. (That goal will be the same, $3500.00, toward which we have already raised $144.45 or 4.1% as of 20200702_120140 UTC.)
Here is the breakdown of our subscriptions for the first half of this year:
Qty Sub Amt Total 7 4.00 28.00 12 5.00 60.00 2 10.00 20.00 6 12.00 72.00 99 20.00 1980.00 1 20.20 20.20 4 25.00 100.00 1 26.74 26.74 4 30.00 120.00 1 33.33 33.33 1 36.60 36.60 1 39.39 39.39 6 40.00 240.00 9 50.00 450.00 1 60.00 60.00 3 100.00 300.00 1 103.50 103.50 1 113.00 113.00 3 120.00 360.00 2 200.00 400.00 1 400.00 400.00
[20200629_140251 UTC: Update 1: Encourage taking care of personal/local needs, first.]
[20200629_191024 UTC: Update 2: Added stretch goal of $1000.00 ]
[20200630_023201 UTC: Update 3: Increased stretch goal from $1000.00 to $2000.00]
[20200630_023201 UTC] What is possibly one of the worst things to hear from an editor? "I'm at a loss for words." Well, it's happened. The SoylentNews community has done it, again! We started today needing $800 to cover projected operating expenses of $3500 for the first half of the year. And you did it! So, I added a stretch goal of an additional $1000. Now you have gone and reached that goal, too! We'd run at a significant loss ($6000 so far), so that is very much appreciated! THANK-YOU!!!. Stretch goal has now been increased to $2000 [so we can continue to track your subscriptions in the Site News block]. Dare I hope? --martyb
[20200629_191024 UTC] The SoylentNews community is AMAZING! In these especially difficult circumstances, we've reached our original goal for ongoing expenses... and then some!
We started today (Monday June 29) needing over $700.00 to cover projected operating expenses for the first half of the year.
We not only reached our original goal of $3500.00, but I added a stretch goal of $1000.00 and we are already 66% of the way to reaching *that*!
Why a stretch goal? Because we have been running at a deficit for a few years. We are are still about $6,000.00 short of having sufficient funds to pay back our benefactor's original $10,000.00 outlay. Any additional funds raised will go towards that purpose whilst giving us a larger safety cushion. --martyb
The original story (after performing Update #1) appears below:
SoylentNews could use your help.
tl;dr The first half of our fiscal year runs Wed. January 1 through Tue. June 30, inclusive. We are at 80% of the funds needed to cover our expenses for the period. If money is tight for you, take care of yourself first. But, if you can help, it would mean a lot to help us to continue to be here for you.
Please subscribe. The subscription amount provided (e.g. $20.00 for 1 year) is the minimum amount for that period; you can change that default to any larger value.
To all who started a new subscription or renewed an existing subscription: Thank You!
Times are tough. First, please take care of yourself and those close to you. But, if you do have funds to spare, we would very much appreciate your support!
Where We Stand:
So far, we have had 106 subscriptions this year which have netted us an estimated $2,794.92 (after processing fees from Stripe/Paypal) towards our goal of $3,500.00.
We run a very lean operation; $20/day keeps everything going. Staffing is all-volunteer; nobody has ever been paid anything for their work on SoylentNews. That includes the editors who get the stories out on the main page. The sysadmins who keep everything running: the servers and all the services like the MySQL databases, Apache HTTP Server, IRC (Internet Relay Chat), email... it's a long list. That we so rarely have issues is a testament to how fortunate we are to have professionals who donate their free time to keep things running. We had to incorporate to be able to accept subscriptions to pay expenses. And with that there are fees for maintaining the incorporation, calculating taxes, and paying them.
Number of subscriptions for each subscription amount, and the totals at that level, so far in 2020:
Qty Sub Amt Total 7 $4.00 $28.00 12 $5.00 $60.00 2 $12.00 $24.00 63 $20.00 $1260.00 2 $25.00 $50.00 3 $30.00 $90.00 1 $36.60 $36.60 1 $39.39 $39.39 3 $40.00 $120.00 4 $50.00 $200.00 1 $60.00 $60.00 2 $100.00 $200.00 1 $113.00 $113.00 2 $120.00 $240.00
The Pandemic Sucks:
The world has changed in the past six months.
The pandemic hit and with it came lock-downs, work-from-home, and social distancing. Closures of movie theaters, restaurants, and bars. Video conferencing became a norm as in-person gatherings were prohibited. And for good reason: worldwide, over 10 million are known to have been infected and over a half million have died. Untold struggles and suffering as we attempt to understand and adapt to a new reality.
We recognized that many of the community were struggling. On April 19th, we extended all subscriptions that were due to expire in April or May to the end of May. If money was tight and it was a choice of renewing your subscription or paying your bills, we'd rather you spend your money locally and so thereby help keep the money in your local community.
SoylentNews is helping in the fight against SARS-CoV-2. You might not be aware, but SoylentNews has a Folding@Home team. We are currently ranked in the top 300 teama in the world (#297 out of 254150 teams)!
F@H is a distributed computing project designed to help understand how proteins fold and thereby search for cures to various diseases. It was originally focused on Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases as well as cancer. With the appearance of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, F@H has pivoted to trying to unravel the behavior of that virus. To this end, many large infrastructure companies (like AWS, Microsoft, Oracle, and Google) have joined the effort.
How it works: Install the client on your computer, instruct it what amount of resources to use, and you are ready to go. The client will periodically download work units and, when completed, upload the results to the F@H servers. The faster the results are computed, the more points are earned. We are team #230319. If you have computes to spare, we'd love to have you join us!
Stories and Discussions:
Through all this, we here at SoylentNews have persevered. People from all over joined us in discussions on the pandemic and so many other topics. We aim for news with a technological focus but will occasionally offer something a little offbeat.
So far in 2020, SoylentNews has posted over 2,100 stories. Separately, the community has posted 700 journal entries. To these 2,800 items, the community has posted 76,000 comments — over 400 comments per day! In addition, there have been over 55,000 comment moderations — that's nearly 300 per day.
We are continuing our efforts to move services from beryllium (our only Centos server) to aluminum (Gentoo). Deucalion (on IRC; aka Juggs on SoylentNews) has been trudging along trying to get things brought over for IRC (Internet Relate Chat). He reports he had a 100-hour long week at work last week, but still managed to make some progress on this over the weekend. There are significant differences between the two, so it has been quite the challenge. Getting userids added to the correct groups; setting up ACLs; chron syntax incompatibilities; the list goes on and on.
At approximately 1200 UTC we experience a problem and the site was unavailable for about an hour. As I understand it, we had some connectivity issues. We are now in the process of investigating. Kudos to TheMightyBuzzard for his way-too-early-in-the-morning work to get us back up!
Registered users will probably have to log back in again.
Here's hoping this is the worst problem you have today!
This is to inform you we *are* aware of a problem with the site.
Symptom: The "Most Recent Journal Entries" box that normally appears on the right-hand-side of the main page is currently not currently displaying.
We have tried a few things, but have had no luck so far. We will update this story when we know more.
Problem first became apparent at about 17:45 UTC today.
Workaround: Use Search to look at the most recent journal entries. Specifically:
We will update this story when we know more. I have done all I (martyb) know how; hopefully TheMightyBuzzard will show up before too long and get things straightened out.
[Update-TMB]: The local mysqld instances on both web frontends both decided to be On The Crack for some reason or other. The database itself running over on the db servers was just fine and a restart of mysqld (and bouncing of Apache/Varnish which has to be done whenever mysqld is restarted) on the web frontends put things back to normal.
The cause of mysqld's drug use is unknown and shall remain so unless it happens more than once.
As promised, here's the round-table discussion post that I said on Wednesday was coming. We have a long history at SoylentNews of listening and responding to our community; I genuinely hope that never changes. I also recognize that I may have ruffled some feathers in the last few weeks with original content postings so here's the best place to get this all out.
I am mindful of the community's support and goodwill; I don't want to squander any of it. Yes, there are times where my hand may be forced (e.g., DCMA takedowns). Still, I'm always a bit hesitant whenever I post on the main site for anything that isn't site update news or similar. I may be the de facto site leader, but I want my submissions to be treated like anyone else's — I want no favoritism. The editorial team does review my stories and signs off before they go live (unless it's an "emergency" situation such as the last time we blew up the site). However, as the saying goes, the buck stops with me.
SoylentNews accepts original content. I'm also aware that I've probably submitted the most original content so far (See "Previously", below for some examples). I'm grateful for the community's apparent acceptance of my submissions and the positive responses to them. What I don't know is if there is an undercurrent of displeasure with these. Maybe everyone thinks these are all fine. Then again, maybe somebody has an issue with them. Rather than assume anything, let's get it all out in the open.
What I want to cover in this round-table discussion is original content and having images in posts as well as topics such as yesterday's Live Show on Improving Your Security -- Wednesday June 3rd, 2020.
So, contributors and commenters to SoylentNews, get that Reply button hot and let me hear your feedback. As usual, either a member of staff or I will respond to your comments below,
73 de NCommander
(2020-06-03) Live Show on Improving Your Security -- Wednesday June 3rd, 2020
(2020-05-24) Retrotech: The Novell NetWare Experience
(2020-05-14) Exploring Windows for Workgroups 3.11 - Early 90s Networking
(2020-05-10) Examining Windows 1.0 HELLO.C - 35 Years of Backwards Compatibility
(2020-05-15) Meta: Having a Chat about SoylentNews' Internet Relay Chat
(2018-10-25) My Time as an ICANN Fellow
(2017-10-09) soylentnews.org experiencing DNSSEC issues
(2017-04-20) Soylentnews.org is Moving to Gentoo...
(2017-04-17) SN Security Updates: CAA, LogJam, HTTP Method Disable, and 3DES
(2017-03-13) Xenix 2.2.3c Restoration: Xrossing The X (Part 4)
On 2020-05-28 the SoylentNews community attained an amazing milestone: the posting of its one millionth comment!
First off, please accept my sincere thanks and gratitude to the community for all your contributions to the site to get us to this point. Never did I imagine in those first few days when comment IDs were 3 or 4 digits long that such a milestone was even feasible! I mean the site was crashing several times a day. Not an auspicious start, that's for sure! But we all pulled together, weathered some challenges, and got things pulled together.. and we're still here!
So, who was the lucky poster of comment 1,000,000? And who was the runner-up at comment 999,999 (which has a nice palindromic ring to it, wouldn't you agree?
The honor of the very first 7-digit comment fittingly goes to story-submitter extraordinaire takyon. Yes, not content to post comment ID 1000000 because that could be just a one-shot lucky break. No, he has posted (as of this writing) 18,731 comments. Oh, and as for submitting stories, he is unfortunately omitted from the "Most Active Authors" list on the SoylentNews Hall of Fame because he is also an editor. So, please join me in thanking takyon for submitting 5,852 stories! Oh! And as an editor, he has also pushed out 1,350 stories! Whenever I see one of his subs in the queue, I know it only needs a quick review before pushing it out to the story queue. He makes my job as an editor much easier and makes SoylentNews look good! Thanks takyon!
So who was our runner-up with comment number 999,999? Well, he wasn't just spinning his tires when he posted this comment. None other than our also-prolific Runaway1956! He is no slouch when it comes to posting comments, either, as he has posted 18,483 of them so far. He has taken an active part in comment moderation, too with 2,968 moderations of which 78% were upmods. As if that were not enough, he is also an active contributor to our Folding@Home team, sitting currently at 3rd place and making a hard run for 2nd place! (F@H investigates — via computer modelling — how proteins fold.) The F@H group's efforts have almost exclusively been redirected to understanding the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 disease.
For those who may be unaware, SoylentNews is purely a volunteer organization. Nobody has ever been paid even one cent for their work. Further, we have never accepted any advertising on SoylentNews; the site is entirely self supporting through the subscriptions of the community. We run a tight ship and expenses run approximately $20 per day for everything.
Speaking of volunteers, it brings me great pleasure to call out another major milestone, fnord666 has now edited over 5,000 stories on SoylentNews! (See Most Active Authors.) Thanks so very much, fnord666, for all your hard work and sacrifices to make that happen!
Thanks everybody! Here's to many more years!
Back in the early days of SoylentNews, things were often fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants. We tried to plan ahead and anticipate future needs. In retrospect, I'd like to think we did pretty well, all in all. One early casualty was the choice of our discussion system. My memory is fuzzy on the details, but I seem to recall it was based on "phpBB Forum Software" (Corrections welcome!) That eventually was superseded by IRC.
Internet Relay Chat (IRC):
Yes, SoylentNews has its own IRC service. It's used for all manner of purposes. Ostensibly, it's for staff to communicate with each other about site plans, development, and operations. But, multiple "channels" are readily implemented, so we have a bunch of channels up and running. If you are new to IRC, the easiest way to get started is to use our web portal — just select a nick, accept "#Soylent" as the channel, and you're there!
If you have heard about IRC and are curious about our IRC service, please read on past the fold. Otherwise, a new story will be along presently.
Please join me in wishing NCommander a Happy Birthday!
One of the early missteps was the choice of CentOS as the operating system for one of our servers: beryllium. All of our other servers ran Ubuntu. That CentOS server, beryllium, became the server for all the other services that were not directly required for site operations. Quite frankly, it's a bit of a mess. For the curious, expand the following for a subset of what is runs there:
Charybdis, IRC server, http://irc.soylentnews.org - port 6667, 6697(SSL)
Atheme, IRC services
Iris, IRC web chat, http://chat.soylentnews.org - port 3989, forwarded from 80 by apache
Various IRC bots
ZNC, IRC bouncer for staff, http://irc.soylentnews.org - port 60000
Yourls, URL shortener service on http://sylnt.us - port 80
MySQL, used for Yourls
We are in the process of cleaning things up.
We now have 3 servers running Gentoo: lithium, magnesium, and our new server aluminum. Gentoo lets us custom build our servers so they are only running the services we need. That gives us better security (smaller attack surface) and better performance, too. Oh, and no systemd.
The Nitty Gritty: At this point, I'll turn the microphone over to Deucallion (aka Juggs) on what's happening with IRC on aluminum (lightly edited):
So far we have brought a new ircd (Internet Relay Chat - Daemon) into the network: "call.me.al". The 2 crucial key points are:
- Moving services (NickServ, ChanServ, GroupServ, HostServ, SaslServ et al.) Those are all provided by one server side process (atheme), anyone not clued up won't really to know they exist as a separate thing and just interact with it to register a nick and then as the channel bots they see with all the daft names.
- Will be reversing DNS entries for irc1 and irc3.
If I do my part right, there will be minimal to no outage time caused by any of it.
Then there are all the ancillary bits and bots that do logs and stats and story subs and the like but they are not intrinsic to the main IRC infrastructure and just an inconvenience if they go away for an hour or so while ported across.
I announce to everyone here on IRC when I am doing work on something and anticipate a possible outage of some kind as TBH the only people who care if IRC goes down or is degraded in some form are the people using it at that time. As a user it is nice to know in that scenario that it is not your client playing up, nor your network, or your ISP etc. it's just gone for maintenance and sit it out; do not bother investigating. Same reason I announce when I stop messing with stuff so people know there are no works underway.
And for clarification the 3 ircds we currently have now are all classified as hubs, no leafs, they are peers in a network. There is no master-slave relationship in play. We think of irc. as being master because all the other ancillaries sit on it but they can just as well sit on irc2. or "call.me.al". The ircds and services do not give a flying monkey what DNS name resolves to them, it is just convention to name the ircd that resides at irc2.soylentnews.org "irc2.soylentnews.org" or as it is "irc2.sylnt.us" - but it is just that, a name, a label.
This is specifically why I am going with "call.me.al" for aluminum: it breaks that cognitive second guessing about "do I need to match the reverse DNS here or not" questions in my mind at least when I come back to look at it in a year or 2 or 3 or 5. Maybe I am just a simpleton with OCD or some such, but to my mind - a label should be a label, the DNS should be another thing. If they do not need to match, make them different for clarity.
Do keep in mind, this is all being done by volunteers from their (limited) spare time and at no charge. There's still much to do, but we are making progress. Our goal is that over the next couple months or so, to have all of our servers refreshed and moved over to Gentoo. There will be hiccups. Hopefully they will be minor, few, and far between. As always, we will keep the community apprised as to our progress.
So cross your fingers, and join me in thanking these fine folk for all their efforts: TheMightyBuzzard, Deucallion, audioguy, and NCommander!
(2020-05-09) Site Potpourri for Mother's Day [Updated]
First off, on behalf of myself and the staff here at SoylentNews, here's wishing all the Moms out there a Happy Mother's Day! (For all mine did for me, I think it should last at least a month!) [Update: apparently this is for the USA; other countries have other dates. The sentiment, however, remains the same!)
Also, I hereby express the best possible wishes for our entire community as we try to navigate a path through the COVID-19 pandemic. Take the precautions you deem necessary to protect yourself, your loved ones, and all you meet. Please be careful out there!
Should you, or someone you know, be suffering at this time — be it from COVID-19 or any other reason — I can attest to the support I received from the community when I had a health-related situation last fall. You guys (and gals!) are the best!
Folding@Home: Our Folding@Home (F@H) team keeps chugging along! Historically, the F@H effort had been geared towards understanding Parkinson's Disease, Huntington's disease, cancer and the like. People donate their unused processing power (CPUs and and video cards) to perform simulations of how proteins fold. This, in turn, helps locate a way to interfere with the progression of a disease. For the past few months, the focus has shifted to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In concert with that, there has been a huge increase in hardware donated to the cause. So, though our team rank has recently been slipping in the overall standings, I'm happy to report it's from the huge outpouring of support from around the world being brought to the cause.
Top place on our team is held by cmn3280 with just over 300 million points. Next we have LTKKane who just passed 222 million points. And not to be outdone, Runaway1956 has been running hard and is on the cusp of reaching 200 million points (and adding about 1.5 million points per day!) Pop into the #folding channel on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) or reply to this story if you'd like to join our team!
Read past the fold for info about the "Silly Season", subscriptions, site server issues, and plans.
Silly Season: It came a bit earlier than usual, but we are well into the "Silly Season". It's that time of the year when places of higher education close for the summer (in the northern hemisphere) and people's minds turn to summer vacation. Research reports are few and far between. To fill the gap, many publications turn to lighter fare for lack of anything better to publish. Compounded with the COVID-19 pandemic, what research that still continues tends to be slowed down by safety precautions.
What that means is we have less of a selection to choose from in trying to bring stories to the community for discussion. See something tech-related on the web that you think the community might be interested in? Please submit it to SoylentNews! It does not have to be the next "Great
American Novel", either! Of course the more "publication ready" you make it, the easier it is for an editor to decide to run with it. On the other hand, if the topic is interesting, chances are an editor will see it and decide to run with it. If you have any questions, it's helpful to consult the Story Submission Guidelines. Also, a quick scan of stories that have recently been posted to the site should provide guidance as to story organization and layout. Lastly, we appreciate side comments within the story submission; for example: "Doesn't contain the links from the story." Sensational, spittle-spewing spouting soon sees silence. Try to stick with the basics of answering "who", "why", "what", "where", "when", and "how" and you'll be on your way!
Subscriptions: Thanks to a generous first-time subscription of $120.00, we just passed $2,100.00 towards our goal of $3,500.00 for the first half of the year (2020-01-01 through 2020-06-30). Thank you to all who have subscribed and helped pay for things like servers, taxes, and an accountant to prepare the taxes.
As you may recall, we made an announcement on April 19 concerning site subscriptions. Yes, coming down with the SAR-CoV-2 virus is bad. But so is having so many people out of work and and trying to make ends meet. We wanted to support people spending their money locally to support their community and the economy. Therefore, anyone who had a subscription that would otherwise have ended earlier was granted a free extension through 2020-05-30.
Reminder: the indicated amount (e.g. $20.00 for one year) is a minimum for that duration. So, you can absolutely select a one year subscription and change the amount to, say, $100.00 from the $20.00 that was suggested. (For the record, the largest subscription to date was an extremely generous $1,000.00!) On the other hand, we have two Soylentils who subscribe for $4.00 — every month — like clockwork. It warms my heart every time I see their subscriptions arrive! It's one of the things I love about this community: everybody contributes in their own way and somehow it all comes together. And it has held together since February of 2014! Thanks everybody!
Servers, Part 1. Behind the scenes, TheMightyBuzzard spent the weekend setting up a new server, aluminum. We are gradually moving to a Gentoo Linux base for our servers. Rather than pre-compiled binaries that get downloaded and run locally, Gentoo provides source code for download that one compiles and builds locally. At the moment we have three Gentoo-based servers (lithium, magnesium, and aluminum), one server on CentOS (beryllium), and the rest are on Ubuntu. By moving to Gentoo Linux, we get a streamlined server with a smaller attack surface as only the things we need are built into the kernel. That lone CentOS server? It has been with us from the start and has been no end of a hassle. Several services "live" on it and these need to be migrated before we can retire it. The first stage of that process is underway as Deucalion has been working on bringing up IRC on aluminum. In turn, other services will be brought over. Then we can (finally!) retire beryllium for good! Next on the list are sodium and boron (aiming to have completed by June.) Along with that, there have been new (security and otherwise) releases of other services that site depends on. We intend to get those upgraded as we move to an entirely Gentoo platform. Please join me in wishing them well on the migrations and upgrades!
Servers, Part 2: We had a hiccup with Linode (our server provider) on Friday. Through it all, our servers stayed up and running! Unfortunately, the problem was with one or more network switches at Linode. (Cf: Bert & I on YouTube 😀) The front end (which processes requests for web pages) as well as IRC (and possibly other things of which I am unaware) were inaccessible for the better part of an hour. Given how frequently SoylentNews used to crash (several times each *day*), it is a testament to the hard work put in at the outset that this is such a rarity for us today. Our servers currently have uptimes in the range of 6-9 months... and it would be longer except for some behind-the-scenes work to take advantage of free storage upgrades made available to us by Linode. Remember all work on the site is performed by volunteers who give of their limited free time to keep things humming here.
Summary: Our Folding@Home team is helping to find a cure for COVID-19. Please send in story submissions. We are still accepting subscriptions. Our servers were NOT "Pining for the fjords". Server upgrades are in progress.
[20200508_220152 UTC: Update 2: "Monitoring - We've corrected the issues affecting connectivity to our Dallas data center, and we'll continue to monitor this issue to ensure that connectivity remains stable. If you are still experiencing connectivity issues, please reach out to our Support team by opening a ticket through the Linode Manager or by emailing email@example.com.
May 8, 21:57 UTC"]
[20200508_170527 UTC: Update 1: "Investigating - Our Dallas data center is experiencing additional connectivity issues, which we're investigating. We'll post additional updates as we learn more.
May 8, 20:49 UTC
We are aware of connectivity issues with Linode, out hosting provider:
Investigating - We are aware of connectivity issues affecting Linodes in our Dallas data center and are currently investigating. We will continue to provide additional updates as this incident develops.
May 8, 20:07 UTC
Monitoring - We've corrected the issues affecting the Linode Manager and our API, and we'll continue to monitor this issue to ensure that connectivity remains stable. If you are still experiencing connectivity issues with the Linode Manager or our API, please reach out to our Support team by opening a ticket through the Linode Manager or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 8, 20:25 UTC
From what I could see, IRC dropped for a while as did access to our main page. There are reports on IRC that mail was down, too.
We are monitoring the situation and will update when we know more.