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.
So, COVID-19 (coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, whatever you call it) sucks a bit for your health but it turns out it sucks a lot for the economy. So we're extending any subscriptions that were going to expire before then out to June first (this may be extended a time or two depending on how well our savings hold up). Yeah, we know we're an extremely small cap entity and that's not going to make a whole lot of difference but it's something we felt we should do anyway for a couple reasons.
First, we as a corporation do not have paid employees. The only people we give money to are our hosts, our registrar, our CPA, and the revenooers. Which we're going to have to continue doing regardless and which we can currently afford to do for a month or two without dire risk of having to make infrastructure cutbacks. Putting money into us during this nonsense doesn't help much in directly putting food on someone's table or keeping jobs from going poof, so we'd prefer you guys put anything you were going to send us to work where it will help at least a tiny bit in keeping the businesses that your neighbors work at afloat. Which is to say, spend it locally.
Second, we're quite fond of the folks who've chosen to financially support the site and we don't want them to get dinged because of something that wasn't remotely their fault.
Now we're not shutting down the site's subscription functionality. If you feel a desire to contribute anyway, we're happy to oblige and we're not going to tell you that you can't. We're not the bosses of your wallets and it would mean extra work for me when I don't really have time to do much of anything code/admin-wise.
Also, we're only doing this automatically for current and new subscribers; we don't want to hit people who weren't interested with an unsolicited email about subscription expiration when we have to shut the extensions down. They may have quit subscribing or even frequenting the site and it's annoying as all get out to keep getting emails from sites you stopped doing business with on purpose. We're happy to handle it manually, though, if your subscription ended any time since the first of the year. Just drop a comment to this journal entry (NOT to THIS story!) and I'll take care of it as often as I have time (at least once a day).
That's all. We now return you to your regularly scheduled mix of discussion, debate, yelling at each other, and trolling.
(Oh, and you can still submit stories, too! Hint hint! --martyb)
[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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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!