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 That eventually was superseded by IRC.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]
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)
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.