2021-07-22 12:14:55 ..
2021-10-18 11:21:58 UTC
2021-10-18 12:49:30 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.
[2021-01-01 20:46:45 UTC; updated with estimated totals for the second half of the year 2020 and for the entire year.]
The end of the year 2020 is fast upon us. There are many, I'm sure, who will be glad to see it go. And for good reason, too.
I am inviting the editorial team to take a long holiday weekend; we will have reduced story coverage Friday through Sunday.
There's no need to go into a recap of the world's events over this past year — plenty of other sites will do that and I see no need to waste people's time.
Here's a milestone that happened a couple weeks ago that escaped my notice at the time: SoylentNews has been here, for the community, for over 2,500 days! It's amazing what can happen when people pull together in a common effort!
We are about to wrap up our fiscal year. (NB: all amounts are estimates.) Our first-half fundraising went very well (thank you!) It looks like we need only about $110.00 to make our year-end goal!
[UPDATE] (2021-01-01 20:46:45 UTC)
We did it! First, the "bad news": we missed our goal for the second half of the year. We had net subscription income of $2,351.56 (which was 67.2% of our $3,500.00 goal.
But... we did make our entire year goal: we had net subscription income of $7,106.08 (which was 101.5% of our $7,000.00 goal).
NB: All amounts are estimates; we will post a followup with final figures after they become available. That will probably not be until we file our taxes for the year 2020.
THANK-YOU EVERYBODY! We'll leave the year-end numbers up on the "Site News" Slashbox for a few days so that as many as reasonably possible have a chance to see.
As I write this, for the year, we have raised $6,890.77 (98.4%) of our $7,000 goal. That is, in large part, due to the excellent response to the fundraiser for the first half. For the second half of the year, we stand at $2,136.25 (61.0%) of our $3,500.00 goal. Thanks everyone who has already subscribed; we wouldn't be where we are without you!
If you haven't already done so, and are in a position to do so, please subscribe if you can. Every bit helps!
Theeeyr're baaack! Well it seems that way, at least! I noticed the "Most Recent Journal Entries" Slashbox has returned and that the load on our servers has returned to normal levels. I have received no official word, but from what I can see, we are back in business. Yay!
Lastly, I am going to take this opportunity to thank the editorial team for keeping the stories coming 24/7/366 (Yeah, 2020 was a leap year). Between politics and the pandemic filling the headlines, it was difficult to find a balanced mix. In a highly polarized environment, it was sometimes difficult to sift the wheat from the chaff. Also, thanks to COVID-19 many events were cancelled and facilities closed or operating under reduced hours. That resulted in even less of the "normal" kinds of news we'd have available to us to choose from.
I am happy to report that requerdanos, who so graciously accepted an invitation to join the editorial team, has already been making a very positive impact. Not just in pushing out stories (though that has been huge), but also in bringing a positive attitude and a keen eye to bear. We are indeed fortunate to have him aboard!
A little history:
I got started as an editor in 2014. It all started when I noticed typos, formatting errors, or word omissions in stories posted to the site. I'd jump on IRC and try to reach out to an editor to get corrections made. After doing this several times, I started suggesting that if I were made an editor, I could make the corrections, myself! Seemed to fall on deaf ears. But I persisted and was eventually made an editor. Little did I suspect: I was in for a shock! There was so much more happening behind the scenes than I had ever imagined. (Can you say Dunning-Kruger?) It was only after I had undergone a few days' training that I was permitted to finally push out my first story.
I did not understand that what gets posted on the main page is the voice of the site. That we needed to watch out for troll submissions (some are plausible but fail under closer scrutiny). Other story submissions came with bold and italics omitted. Others had missing or broken links. There are also matters of defamation and fair use to watch for. That is entirely separate from the logistics of working as part of a team with members on multiple continents and in different time zones!
There is also the matter of following guidelines so that the site has a consistent layout (aka look-and-feel). Then, too, scheduling stories was functional, but unforgiving of errors.
I am grateful the extent of my ignorance was mostly made known only to other (very understanding and patient) staff members. (Yes, I've had my front page flubs, too.)
So, with that most glowing of introductions to the work of an editor, I hereby offer an opportunity to anyone who is interested in joining the team. (I feel like I'm writing an ad inviting people to join a team trying to reach the North Pole: random hours, no pay, bring your own asbestos garments!)
Anyone who thinks the job of an editor is quick work or easy is hereby also invited to volunteer.
Here's wishing everyone in the SoylentNews community a safe, prosperous, and Happy New Year!
[2020-12-25 22:18:22 UTC -- Corrected typo (with thanks to maxwell demon) --martyb]
[2020-12-25 21:32:03 UTC -- Updated with staff info and reformatted the story. --martyb]
First, on behalf of the staff at SoylentNews, please accept our best wishes for a happy (and safe and healthy) holiday!
Next, here are a few quick items of note that bear calling to your attention.
Please join me in welcoming requerdanos to the editorial staff at SoylentNews! He has already jumped in with both feet and had stories appear on the main page. Welcome aboard requerdanos!
Of note, as well, takyon has not only posted 1364 stories to the site, and he has submitted just shy of 6,100 stories (as I write this it stands at 6,097 submissions... there's more(!) how about posting over 20,000 comments! Thank you SO much!
I always feel reluctant to mention anyone specifically as running this site is a team effort. I sense there are some staff who prefer to work in the background and shun the limelight. We appreciate their efforts nonetheless! Recall the early days when site crashes were a
request frequent occurrence. We've come a long way from then and I count it a privilege to have worked with such knowledgeable folk who have been so generous with their time and energy!
Lastly a huge thank-you to those who responded so generously to our end-of-the-year fundraiser! As of this writing, we have had 21 subscriptions totaling $567.40 since our request went out a couple weeks ago.
In this second half of the year (July 1 through December 31) we have raised $1908.15 from 85 subscriptions towards our $3,500.00 goal. THANK-YOU!
We realize it's been a tough year for everyone; take care of your friends, family, and community first. But, if you do have the means, we'd really appreciate your subscribing and helping us to keep things going for you and our community! Please see this comment to our previous story for step-by-step instructions on how to subscribe.
Why subscribe? Why not? Besides, you'll get all the benefits listed on the "SoylentNews - Why Subscribe?".
NB: If you'd prefer, you can subscribe anonymously. There's an option to make a gift subscription, as well. For any questions or difficulty, please reach out on IRC, send an email to email@example.com, or just post a comment to this story.
The year is winding to a close so I thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up on a few things:
For details, read on below the fold.
First off, I'd like to acknowledge an amazing milestone: Fnord666 has now edited and pushed out over 6,000 stories Thanks, Fnord666!
Another milestone of note: our Folding@Home team just reached 2.3 Billion points. Here's a different view of the stats. Out of all the teams in the world, we are in 348th place! And our very own Runaway1956 is currently at 2,077th place in the world with over 630 million points! Go Team!
We had a couple story submissions by Anonymous Cowards that raised some concerns about SoylentNews. I see some misunderstandings here, and wanted to address them publicly.
The first one concerns the story submissions queue:
upstart hogs the subs queue. Perhaps there should be a way to filter out the subs queue by name so that I can either omit or include specific names and scan through stuff that's not by upstart. Especially since this seems to be 'generated bot-o-matically!', maybe I want to see articles by non-bots without being overly cluttered with bot generated submissions.
Interesting suggestion. Editors also see the — complete — list of story submissions: Nexus, Date/Time Stamp, Title, and Nickname. We, too, have no mechanism for filtering based on nickname. (There are, of course, some additional controls provided us for processing story submissions.)
From the Create Account page:
(Note: only the characters a-zA-Z0-9$_.+!*'(),-, plus space, are allowed in nicknames, and all others will be stripped out.)
It seems far from trivial to design a clear interface for enumerating nicknames to include or exclude. Said UI would need to be designed, implemented, and tested. It is an interesting idea and will be considered when we have freed up some time for development in the future.
It should also be noted that perhaps the massive number of submissions by upstart shouldn't reduce the number of listed submissions at any given time by others because upstart 'bumped' them off the queue list. If the queue list has a max queue count (and not a max number of days before being bumped off) then upstart probably shouldn't contribute to that max count and it should have its own separate max count allowing for the submissions of others to persist on the subs queue even if those submissions have been there before some of upstart's prior posts.
See above, no stories are omitted from the subs queue. If it's in the queue, we see them!
Here, I'm speaking only for myself (but I invite other editors to chime in if they do things otherwise). The first thing I do is scan the entire subs queue. I look specifically for non-bot submissions and also to get a feel for the current zeitgeist. Only then do I select a story to open for consideration. If someone made the effort to submit a story, I believe it is incumbent on me to respect that effort and give it a priority. Having reviewed the entire queue, I've also noticed if the same story has been submitted by someone else (human or bot). A bot sub is often the source for the "See also" links you see in a story.)
Oh! Bot subs still require a person to submit them. But, instead of using the Submit Story link from the "Navigation" Slashbox, they've provided a link in IRC to one of the bots that are resident there. In all cases, an actual person had to manually initiate the submission.
Next up is a question about time on this site.
Soylentnews posts the timestamps of articles and comments but it doesn't post the time zone. So when I submit a comment or read an article it says 5:34 PM for example but that doesn't really mean much to me if the time zone isn't mentioned.
I suggest the time zone should be next to the comment or article. 5:34 PM PT or 5:34PM UTC or whatever. That way I (anyone) can conveniently stick that into google and have it translate what that means in my time zone without having to think/jump through hoops to figure it out.
This one is easier to address. If you have created an account, you can select what time zone you want used as the basis for the time presented throughout the UI. In no case does SoylentNews explicitly state a time zone; it is implied. So, if you are accessing the site without having logged in (i.e. an "Anonymous Coward", aka "AC") it defaults to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). NB: Occasionally that is (incorrectly) referred to as GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Read the link for details.
tl;dr: The time zone is always implied and never made explicit in the site UI. Either it is UTC (the default), or what you set it to in your account preferences.
I invited TMB (The Mighty Buzzard) to write in with some info on what the site sysadmins do here. In his own words:
So, martyb wants me to let yall know that us admins actually occasionally do stuff around these parts. The thing is, if you do your job well as an admin, you end up not having to do a whole lot of day-to-day stuff. So I'll just tell you about what I've done this past week since it's not a blank page or "everything's working fine". Gentoo system updates and firewalling off the IP addresses of automated hack attempts on our email server.
Firewalling first. Been seeing a lot of identical SMTP attempts from some script-kiddie noobs. Audioguy was forward-thinking enough to write us a just-add-address blocking script so it's just a matter of grepping the logs, doing a little awk to snag the addresses, piping through uniq, and running `lockout 126.96.36.199` or `lockout 188.8.131.52/24` or what have you. Yeah, we could do the same without even having to pay attention via snort but I can't currently be arsed to set snort up and I kind of like paying attention.
Gentoo system updates are pretty routine if you don't get lazy and let six months of them build up. We use a chroot environment on our dev box as a build box for all the Gentoo boxes so we don't have to have the CPUs pegged for extended periods on production boxes or have to install every package on the real root of the dev box. Which means we set it as BINHOST, compile world+dog just once in the chroot environment, and let all the Gentoo servers pull the binary packages they need from it over rsync.
Well, that's all you generally have to do right up until you get one of those fun days when they decide to deprecate the profile you're using and force you to update profiles if you want stuff to keep building correctly. That's what I've been monkeying with the past couple days. On and off, mind you. It doesn't take days to do if you're have time and are willing to sit in front of a terminal emulator the whole time. This time around that means you get this message and have to back up each server and do an annoying extra rain dance:
!!! Your current profile is deprecated and not supported anymore.
!!! Use eselect profile to update your profile.
!!! Please upgrade to the following profile if possible:
The amd64 17.1 profiles switch to a more standard 'no SYMLINK_LIB' multilib layout, and require an explicit migration. The migration is performed using the app-portage/unsymlink-lib tool.
Basically that means you get to cross your fingers, run their tool, recompile gcc and any 32bit libs you have on your system, switch profiles, reboot, and test everything you want running correctly to make sure it still does. So far we've lucked out and had no issues but I still have the least likely to go smoothly box to go. Luckily it's also the one slated to replace our IRC/mail/etc... box and not yet any form of critical since it's not set up to do those jobs singlehandedly yet.
Anyway, that's today's peek into the exciting and glamorous world of an admin. We now return you to your regularly scheduled arguments.
Thanks, buzz, for the info and for all the work you do behind the scenes to keep things running! Also, a shoutout to Deucalion, mechanicj, and audioguy for all you do to keep us going!
It has been a pleasure working with our editing team. They toil many hours 24/7 to keep the stories coming. One of our staff has experienced reduced availability taking care of a loved one who is ill. And, well he should! With the reduced staffing, it is increasingly obvious that something has to give. I have invited a member of the community to join our ranks as an editor, but this will take some time. In the interim, we have moved to a reduced story cadence. Story spacing going forward is approximately 4 3/4 hours on weekends and 2 1/2 hours on weekdays (UTC). Please join me in thanking Fnord666, chromas, and takyon for their continued selfless service to the community! Teamwork++!
This is not a topic I like to discuss, but it needs to be done, so here goes.
At last check, we had raised $1,317.17 towards a goal of $3,500.00 for this half of the year (July 1 through December 31). So, that puts us at 36.6% of our goal.
We realize times are tough for all of us. If your finances are tight right now, please take care of yourself and your loved ones, first. But, if you find we provide a useful service, we'd very much appreciate any help you can provide. Go to our Subscription page and whatever amount you can offer will be most appreciated! We had a successful drive in the first half of the year which helped make up for a running deficit, but we're still down from the initial amounts put in to get the site off the ground and incorporated. Every bit helps. FYI: we do not see your account information. You choose PayPal or Stripe as the payment processor and then you are provided a form on their service. They handle all the processing and deposit the net amount in our PayPal or Stripe account for us to then deposit in our bank account.
Please accept my deepest thanks for anything you can contribute. NB: The amounts indicated are the minimum for the stated duration. For example, $20.00 for a one year subscription. You can increase that suggested amount to whatever value you'd like. Gift subscriptions are also welcome!
The largest portion of the funds go towards the cost of our servers. Next up are required fees, taxes, and the cost of a CPA to do our taxes.
It bears mentioning that nobody at SoylentNews has ever been paid anything for their work on the site. Everyone on staff are volunteers and freely give of their free time and energy to keep things running. It's also important to note that we have never run advertisements of any kind, nor has any user information ever been sold.
There are some downsides to this. Should the site go down for any reason, we do not have things staffed 24/7/365 constantly monitoring all services and poised to leap at a moment's notice should anything go toes up. We did have a couple periods of downtime this half. First, when our redundant servers got out of sync and brought things to a halt. Which is good, because when things started coming back up, the older copy of the database was trying to claim it should be the primary. Thanks, TMB, for sorting things out so we suffered no loss of data! A few days later, our site certificate expired and had the site unavailable for a few hours. It's a Catch-22 situation. How can you use expired certs to get access to a site so you can install new certs? I've done cert updates a couple times on SoylentNews, but this had me baffled. Thanks TMB for sorting things out!
First off, for those of you who are celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday, please accept our best wishes for a safe and happy holiday. For those who are struggling themselves (or who have friends or family who are), please accept our sincere and best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.
For those who are not in the US, please be aware that Thursday is a national holiday. Further, it is traditional for most people, where possible, to also take off Friday, too. This allows for an extended period of time: Thursday through Sunday, inclusive.
Our editorial staff has been happy to provide stories for the community's discussion. There is much that happens behind the scenes. I am taking this opportunity to publicly thank all of them for their hard work and their sacrifices of time and energy.
I am encouraging the editorial staff to take a break during this holiday period. Therefore, we will be on a reduced, weekend schedule from Thursday through Sunday (UTC), inclusive. We will continue to check in during this period... we thank you in advance for continuing to send in your story submissions.
Again, please accept our genuine best wishes for a safe and happy holiday!
It has been a while since I've written a site summary, and I've been meaning to do so for a while now. So, I'm just going to get started and hope that will motivate my getting it done.
As always, if this kind of story is not of interest to you, another story will be along before long.
Otherwise, read on below the fold for what's been happening.
Daylight Saving Time:
If you live in the USA, there's a very good chance that Daylight Saving Time ended over the weekend for you and you were supposed to set your clocks back. Consider this a friendly Public Service Announcement just in case you forgot. Please be aware that, historically, people tend to struggle with the time shift for a week or so.
Things are Difficult for Everyone:
Times are tough for many people right now. COVID-19 and lockdowns. Businesses closed or under limited attendance and hours. Many schools are closed, under restricted attendance, or a hybrid combination of online and in-person attendance. Parents are trying to juggle work-from-home, often while trying to watch over their kids.
Please be mindful that people you meet — on-line or in-person — may be struggling, just like you. Please take a moment to reflect on where they are coming from and not lash out at people, just as you might wish for others to be patient with you. Maybe even call up a friend and ask how the are doing. We can all do something to help make it a little easier on those we meet.
Also, Election day is Tuesday, November 3 in the US. You may have heard about the Presidential election, but there are a host of other races, as well. To cap things off, election results in many cases may not be known for several days after election day. I found this provided a nice summary.
Digging out of my System Crash:
I blew up my windows install and decided to use that as an incentive to switch over to Linux — Ubuntu Mate, still in progress. For those who want more details:
So, I tried to restore a file from a duplicate of my C: drive a couple weeks ago. I had an SSD which had an older, bit-for-bit copy of C: my drive. I mounted it in in an external USB enclosure, but Windows did not recognize the drive. So, I hibernated and awakened the laptop. Nope, still did not recognize there was a drive attached. Grrr. How about a hard restart? Nope, no joy. In fact, less than joy. Now I had a message from Windows that my copy was potentially invalid and that I needed to reauthorize it! A couple other tries at rebooting resulted in a BSOD. (I later realized my boot order was CD/DVD, external USB, then internal disk. Ooops!
I'd been meaning to move over to Linux for a long time, but had held off due to the 1,000+ batch and AWK scripts and some other programs I'd written over the years. Rather than trying to resurrect my Windows install, I decided to bite the bullet and force myself to make the switch. I am conversant with userland tools like grep, sed, gawk, du, df, diff, and the like. But, installing and configuring packages like email (Thunderbird), HexChat, ssh (replacing PuTTY), browser (Firefox after using Pale Moon) has been slow going.
It's still a work-in-progress, but I've made a lot of headway. Huge thanks to "The Mighty Buzzard", "janrinok", "Fnord666", "chromas", "Azuma Hazuki", "Runaway1956", and others who have been exceedingly patient with me as they've tried to help me get things working again! This is what got me into programming all those years ago: the selfless willingness to help others "learn the ropes". I can't thank you all enough!
Did I mention things were difficult for everyone? Only a few days after my system went sideways and now currently booted from an external Live Edition of Ubuntu, SoylentNews had a system outage. I had happened to wake very early and noticed the site was down with a 500 error. Was able to get onto IRC (Internet Relay Chat) through my browser. Discovered others were already aware. I offered a couple suggestions, but had no luck. I sent a text to "The Might Buzzard" (aka "TMB" and "Buzz") and settled in to wait for him to wake. Fortunately, TMB was able to quickly identify and rectify the (database) problem. In short order we were back up and running again. Thanks Buzz!
So, the next morning I woke up early (again), checked the site, and found we were down (again). This time it was because our certificate had expired. (Since I was without email at this time, I missed the reminders send out by Let's Encrypt.) Thanks go to TMB (again!) for making quick work of getting certs re-issued and deployed!
As you may have surmised, we are a bit short staffed. I do what I can to help on the systems side of things, but my skills are very limited in that realm. I'm better at writing tests, Templates, and Perl (in decreasing order of knowledge/expertise). Just over two years ago, "janrinok" stepped down and I took over the role of Editor-in-Chief (EiC). I count it a privilege to serve the community and do my best to: try and keep the stories coming, act as a liason for site issues, and offer guidance where needed to the other editors.
Please join me in thanking "Fnord666", our Alternate Editor-in-chief (AEiC), for his able efforts in getting stories out. Nearly half of the stories you see on SoylentNews are thanks to his efforts. Thanks Fnord666! Thanks, too, to "chromas" who occasionally pushes out stories (and often seconds stories before they make it to the main page). Not to stay entirely away, "janrinok" can often be seen seconding stories and occasionally pushing out a story or two. He's also an able mentor as I try and fill his shoes as EiC. Behind the scenes I've seen "takyon", "CoolHand", "Mrpg", and others occasionally pop in and lend a hand. (We had a surprise visit from mrpg on IRC on Saturday!) Thanks to ALL of you!
Ever wonder how this site runs? What happens behind the scenes? We can always use a helping hand. If you are interested, please reply to this story and/or send an email to admin (at) soylentnews (dot) org and/or pop onto IRC and let someone know. Every little bit helps! When I started off, I had never used IRC before, never edited a story, and was unfamiliar with our code base. Though nobody has ever been paid even one cent for their work here, I consider the things I've learned to be priceless. Especially the friendships I've made along the way. Highly recommended!
One thing that would be a HUGE help is having the community submit stories. Yes, we have bots that are a big help, but that means each story takes a bunch of work to get the gist of the material, extract a subset, look up any journal references, check links, and so on. OTOH, when I see a sub from "takyon" it's usually just a quick skim, schedule a time slot, and then on to the next one. See the difference? We only have so much spare time. It may not sound like much, but the time required for each story adds up! Just take a look at the number of stories pushed out so far. Yes, "fnord666" is fast approaching 5,800 stories! [and martyb is rapidly approaching 9500 stories, but he is too modest to say so --JR] Thanks and Congratulations!
We strive to keep a continuous stream of stories queued up for the community. We average just under a dozen stories a day on weekdays and about 10 or so on weekends (UTC). From the preceding section, you may have surmised we have a thin "bench" on the editorial staff and could use some help.
Quite simply, this rate of stories is not maintainable at current staffing and activity. "Fnord666" and I have been pushing out 4-6 stories a day for the past few months. Unless we get some additional help, we will need to cut back on the number of stories posted each day.
I took a look around and noticed that The Register (aka El Reg) stopped posting stories on the weekend last May. Ars Technica posts primarily during the day (USA hours). On weekends, Ars Technica cuts back to 3-4 stories per day, frequently reposts from other sources (primarily WIRED and Financial Times). Those publications pay their writers. We are unpaid volunteers.
I am not claiming we are on the same level as those publications, but I am finding it hard to justify our putting out 10 stories per day on weekends when they publish far fewer (or none at all). In short, I see no option but to cut back on our weekday cadence by a story or two per day, and cut back *significantly* on weekends. Unless we get some more help, that is. SoylentNews is People. We need your help — please volunteer!
I am pleased to report we have a good start on fundraising for the second half of this calendar year. So far, we have collected approximately $1094.14 towards our goal of $3,500.00 (~31.3%). Thanks to everyone who has Subscribed!
Barring any critical needs, site updates are restricted to minor template changes until "TMB" can finish his house remodeling work. There is a chunk of code he wrote waiting on my getting to test it, but see earlier and my system snafus. (Will 2020 ever end?)
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.