I recently finished moving this website to a new server. I didn’t change the server provider or anything like that, but I wanted to take advantage of some new stuff. Here’s why I did it, and some of the difficulties I encountered.
Why did I do a server migration?
I wanted to upgrade to Ubuntu 18.04 to take advantage of newer PHP and nginx versions. I could have attempted to upgrade from 16.04 to 18.04 in place, but there were a lot of changes between those LTS versions, including how networking is handled. It seemed like the risk was just a little too high. I opted instead to build the system out on a new server, and then move all the website data to the new server. This had a few additional advantages as well:
I could switch from MySQL to MariaDB, a community developed version of MySQL that has gained support from several major tech companies. It also supposedly runs faster in some situations.
I could simplify my nginx configuration files. For each of my sites, my nginx configuration files are almost identical. Pretty much the only different parts are the server_name, paths to the ssl_certificate and ssl-certificate_key and the root for the website’s files. In building out a new server, I could move almost all of the configuration into snippets, making it easy to make changes to all of the sites at once. This will be useful in the future when some things change (like a newer PHP version).
I could entirely remove the andy-bell.com files. For a while I’ve been redirecting andy-bell.com to andybell.xyz, but I was doing so using a WordPress redirection plugin. Since andybell.xyz was literally just cloned from a backup of andy-bell.com, everything’s the same except new stuff. I took the opportunity to just nuke the old files and do the redirect from andy-bell.com to andybell.xyz solely in nginx. This also saved some time, since I wouldn’t need to move the files or database for andy-bell.com.
I use acme.sh for my SSL certificates. I was able to slightly improve things as I re-provisioned all the certs on the new server. (I just issued new certs on the new server so I wouldn’t have to move all the old ones over, plus now they will all renew on the same day, which will help me keep track of it better.)
Moving to the new server
It turned out to not be too difficult. Once I got the new server set up with nginx, PHP, and MariaDB, it wasn’t very hard to move all the old files over (I zipped them up on the old server, moved them straight from one server to the other, then unzipped them). Moving the databases wasn’t much harder. The only issue I had with the databases was one particularly large database that I had trouble with due to the file size. It was actually surprisingly smooth. To help ensure the move from one server to another moved quickly, as soon as I knew I wanted to move servers I changed the TTL (Time to Live) on my DNS settings to 5 minutes, so that it wouldn’t take too long for the DNS changes to propagate. Then 48 hours after I completed the move I turned the TTL back to the default setting!
I’m pretty pleased with the server performance, and I’m happy to be running on the latest Ubuntu LTS release. This should help keep things moving quickly and smoothly for years to come!
(Note: those Vultr links are affiliate links, because I really do like Vultr. If you use either of those links, and are active on Vultr for 30+ days with more than $10 in payments, then I’ll get a $10 credit, which is enough for 2 months of hosting for this site, not including tax.)
An annual tradition started by the now-defunt Joystiq, Four in February is a challenge to finally play a few of those games that we all just have lying around collecting (virtual) dust. The goal is to complete four games during the month of February.
I attempted it last year and came close. I successfully completed three games: Rise of The Tomb Raider, Far Cry 4, and Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People. I think I would have met the goal, had I not been sick for almost a week! I’m going to give it a try again this year. Check out my picks below! I also plan on streaming as much of my attempt as I can, so I’ll update the information below with archives of the streams as well!
Yeah, season 3 just came out. I’m a season behind, which is all the more reason to fire up season 2 and play it! I “enjoyed” season 1 (as much as you can enjoy a story like that), so I don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to playing season 2 yet. I recently picked it up when it was free through Twitch Prime though, so there’s no more excuses. It’s time to enter this tough and depressing world again.
This is a short one. I’ve heard it only takes one sitting to complete, but I’ve also heard nothing but good things about it. This is one that’s been sitting in my library for quite some time, but I just haven’t taken the time to play it. I’m going to finally fix that.
I’ve actually played about 4 hours of Darksiders II before, but then I just never came back to it. I remember thinking that it scratched the same sort of itch that the Legend of Zelda series did for me, so I think it’s time to give it another go. I’ll be starting over since I don’t really remember anything about the story or how to play the game, plus I’ll be playing on the newer Deathinitive Edition as it will hopefully be a little more compatible with Windows 10 than the older version. This one’s my long pick, as I expect it will take up to two weeks to complete.
That is why Undertale is my final pick for Four in February. I attended AGDQ 2017 a few weeks ago and was in the room for the Undertale run; the finale of the marathon. It looked pretty good, but when you’re skipping so much stuff, you don’t get a good sense of the story. So it’s time to play this game. I don’t even own it yet; I’m going to buy it specifically for this.
I haven’t been playing very many video games lately. Sure, I got sucked into Fallout 4 for about 40 hours, but then a whole lot of nothing. It’s time to break out of that. It’s time to actually play a few of the (very) many games that are lying untouched in my library.
4 in February is a yearly event, started by (the now defunct) Joystiq, challenging people to complete four unplayed video games during the month of February. The idea isn’t to go buy four new games, but to make it through four that you already have, but haven’t gotten around to.
With that in mind, it’s time to tackle a little of my backlog. Here’s my 4 in February.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Conveniently, Rise of the Tomb Raider makes its way onto PC on January 28th, just a few days before the start of February. Given just how much I love the Tomb Raider reboot (I’ve played through it twice), it’s no surprise that I want this one on my list to beat in February.
It’ll be very nice to look at as well – this Christmas I upgraded my PC with a new GTX 970, and that’s the card for the recommended spec!
That wasn’t quite as long as I expected. It only took about 12 hours to complete, and I powered through it in just 3 days. I streamed the whole thing – check out the recordings to the left!
Just Cause 2
Just Cause 3 just came out, but I think I’m going to wait for that to go on a better sale. In the meantime, Just Cause 2 is languishing in my Steam library, not even 2 hours played. I don’t remember much from the brief time I’ve already spent with the game, just that I think it was fun, and that it sure looks like it’ll be a lot more fun when I dedicate a proper amount of time to it.
Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People
Remember that great website HomestarRunner.com? The one that’s showing signs of coming back to life? Well, back in 2008 they partnered with Telltale Games to make a series of point-and-click adventures! This was back before Telltale’s games were basically just dialog trees and tough moral choices – they were legit point-and-clicks. I did play most of the first episode at one point, but there’s no way I remember how to do it at this point. It’s broken into 5 episodes, so I think I’ll just play one all the way through each night till I finish it.
Time Gentlemen, Please!
This is actually a sequel to the studio’s previous game Ben There, Dan That, but I won’t play that one first unless I’m making really good time on the others during the month. It’s an absurd comedy point-and-click adventure game, but most importantly it’s kinda short. It’s only about 6 hours long according to user submissions at How Long to Beat. With two big AAA games in my lineup this month, I’ll need a shorter one to serve as a palate cleanser.
So there it is. The four games I’ll be trying to tackle in February. I think I have a good mix, even though two of them are point-and-click adventures. I’ve got a little snack-sized game, an episodic game with easy stopping points, a sandbox mayhem generator, and an epic action adventure. I’ll probably be streaming my time with these games when I can on my Twitch channel (or maybe YouTube instead). We’ll see how I did on March 1st!
The premiere of my short film Quality Time is tonight! Watch the trailer below, and below that is the when and where!
Michael can’t stand his roommate, though the issue is almost entirely in Michael’s head. One morning, a chemical emergency happens, trapping them both in one room for about six hours, and trapping Michael in what he sees as his own personal hell. During their hours together, he must (try to) learn to put up with John. In the end, he learns nothing, because it’s more funny that way.
See Quality Time and 19 other short films produced in the last several months!
I’m making a little trip to Home Depot this weekend. I need some lighting. Sure, I could borrow some from the school, and I still might, but I’d like to have a few on hand for myself. So I’ve been doing some research on what I’ll need to buy. Here are some of the resources I found:
This video is the basic idea I want. It also reminded me of some important things I would probably have forgotten (like extension cords).
This video is a response to the previous one. It’s a little different and gave me a couple other ideas.
I’m undecided about whether I’m going to buy some stands online (depends on the price and whatnot), or if I’ll make one DIY style. I almost want to do the DIY method just because it’s fun to build things!
I’ll be posting about my shopping trip toward the start of next week and sharing everything I picked up!
Long story short, I’m impatient. I don’t like it when I have to wait a long time for my computer to do things. That’s why I set out to build a computer this past December. In this post, I’ll share:
What my goals in building this computer were.
How I selected the parts I used.
What parts I actually ended up using.
A few snags I ran into during the actual building process.
I had three goals in mind while building this computer:
To be able to edit (and export) video pretty quickly using Adobe Premiere Pro CS6
Be able to play current video games at high graphics settings in 1080p
To not have to buy Adobe CS6 again.
That third one was what created the biggest problem: I owned CS6 for Mac. That meant one thing: I needed to build a Hackintosh.
Goals 1 and 2 work pretty well together: the venn diagram of things that make a good video editing machine and a good gaming rig has a pretty good cross section. That meant the starting point was to start with the hardest part (Hackintosh), and then get the others to work within the restraints presented by Hackintoshing.
One more thing: my goal was to stay right around the $1000 mark. The good news: I was buying the parts in November, which has some of the steepest discounts on computer parts all year.
Selecting the Parts
Knowing that I’d have to work within the constraints of building a Hackintosh, I set out to find parts that work best with that. One of the most trusted and comprehensive sources of information on Hackintoshing is TonyMacX86. The best part is that they publish guides to the most compatible parts every month. The great thing is that Hackintoshing has come a long way and there’s a wide variety of parts you can use. That would be enough, except that those same parts are the best ones for video editing!
Long story short, I just selected the best parts within my budget limitations from the Tonymac list.
The Actual Parts
I used PC Part Picker to price out and plan the parts.
Power Supply: Thermaltake Tough Power 750W 80+ Gold Certified ATX Power Supply
OSes: OS X Mavericks & Windows 8.1
This was my first time building a computer, and it was a little scary. I was going very slowly when building it because I was so afraid of messing up. The number one thing I’d recommend to people building a computer for the first time is to prepare. Watch tutorials online. Read the manuals (seriously, they are necessary). Preparation is going to make your life much, much easier.
One of the problems I’ve always had is underestimating. I underestimate how long it will take me to do an assignment. I underestimate what I’ll need to have for a project I’m working on. And I certainly underestimated how much stuff I need to do when working on my short film.
I’ve been working on a pre-production plan for the short film I’ll be shooting next month. Once again, I underestimated just how much planning goes into it. I have scenes pictured out in my head, but when I actually sit down and break down the scene, I realize that I’m going to need X number of actors; this, that, and the other prop; a lot of lighting to make sure people aren’t just shadows. The list goes on and on.
The worst part is knowing that no matter how much pre-production planning I do, I’ll have forgotten something. I always do. Every time I travel between home and school I always leave something behind. I know the same is going to happen with this production. But that’s a part of life. Things will be forgotten, but rolling with the punches is an important part of any creative effort.
It’s time for an update on the short film I’m working on. I figure it’s time to share the premise.
“A student who hates his roommates must spend 6 hours trapped in a room with them during an emergency.”
I’ll elaborate a little.
Tim’s a college student who just wants to be left alone. He doesn’t really have a good reason to hate his roommates; he just really hates living with them. He’d rather be on his own. He doesn’t want to talk to them. I imagine in the kitchen he probably has a cabinet that the others aren’t even allowed to open up.
This post isn’t about that though. This is about the inspiration for the other part of that.
When I was 12, my family moved to Southeast Washington. Part of the TV market in that area was Umatilla, OR. Once in a while, there would be a little PSA on the local channels about what they should do in case of emergency. You see, Umatilla was home to one of the US’s stockpiles of chemical agents. There was a plan to incinerate them, but until that was completed just a few years ago, there was some serious danger.
If there was an incident, they would have had to shelter in place (quickly, I might add) and seal off the outside air coming in. So that was the inspiration for the premise. In fact, the characters largely follow the instructions given on Ready.gov for sheltering in place (though in reality they probably would have evacuated; sheltering in place like that is only good for a couple of hours).
Now I’m at college in Rexburg, Idaho. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m close to another place. Idaho National Laboratory in nearby Idaho Falls doesn’t pose the same kinds of danger (they mainly focus on energy research), but they’ve had incidents too. In fact, they were the site of a fatal nuclear accident in 1961 (the ones killed were personnel working on the reactor).
So put my college experience and the chemical accident premise together and you get this story!
That image above is a good summary of the hardest part of making a short film (which is just one of the things I’m doing in the next few months). Seeing a blinking cursor on screen is just so intimidating. Even though my ideas are always brewing in my head for a while before I actually start typing things out, that doesn’t make it much easier.
The weird thing is that once I start, things open up. The words just start flowing out of my fingertips when I actually start typing. But it takes a massive amount of effort to just get those first words onto the page. I’ve started though. I’ve got the draft of my short film’s script written, though there’s some stuff I’m not happy with yet about it.
Until I get it refined a little more, I’ll just leave the logline here:
A student who hates his roommates must spend 6 hours trapped in a room with them during an emergency.
Some people build computers. Other people fix them. We all use them.
I recently built my first computer and was inspired to share my experience and also see what it’s like to fix a laptop. I visited with Michael of The PC Penguin and watched as he fixed a broken power port on a laptop, and we talked about what it takes to keep up with the changing computer repair industry. In this short documentary, I also share a brief overview of what I went through to build my first computer. Looking back, I make it sound a little scarier than it was, but it’s really not that hard. If you’re interested, you should give it a shot sometime!
My original idea for this documentary fell through, so I only had about a week and a half to put this one together. I had just finished building my first computer a day or two before and it was such a great experience that I decided to make that the subject of this documentary! I emailed Michael and he was perfectly willing to participate and it was really interesting watching him work. I wish I had known I would be doing this before I built my computer so I could have recorded myself as I put it together. Instead, I had to go back after the fact and recreate a couple of shots. Also, since the inside of my case is painted black, it’s really hard to get good shots in there, but I did my best.