What’s that they say about the best laid plans?

Well I had plans anyway. And I thought they were good plans. 5 episodes in to the podcast and I was starting to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t, and how best to proceed with working on a two-host podcast. My initial plans of just having Lucy on to respond to the stories themselves and ask questions and essentially rate my research didn’t really work out all that well. The reasoning behind the initial plan was so that I wasn’t placing any extra bourdon on a co-host who already had a full time job and didn’t really have the spare time to go running down the kinds of rabbit holes that these stories occasionally uncover, so I thought the best angle was to get some kind of “Is this true or false” response. However, it turns out that such a format doesn’t work out as well as I initially had hoped, and Lucy is pretty keen on occasionally taking a peek at the story or at least reviewing my work as it unfolds, and making suggestions. Of course I’d jump at the chance to take full advantage of this, so we set about working on the best way to share data and keep in contact during the week, working around Lucy’s busy schedule. By the end of episode 5 I felt that I had a pretty good idea of how to proceed.

And that’s where we left you.

We had an unscheduled break. Lucy had work commitments suddenly fall into her lap and I had to concentrate on making sure my rent got paid, so the show was put on a short hiatus. And it turns out that while I wasn’t watching, some gremlins had decided to take up residence in my server.

I pretty much assumed that if I just left things alone they would be fine. My server is fairly secure so I don’t have any worries about trouble makers randomly targeting me, and I don’t yet have anybody mad enough to specifically target me, so hacking isn’t an issue. I occasionally use some other features on the server that I’ve set up so I figured that if something were to drastically go wrong I’d know about it. It turns out that I was wrong, as I found out at the most inopportune time.

First, my TSL security certificate expired. I thought it was good for a year, but it expires every three months. I also have a feature called HSTS enabled, which forbids access to the webpage if the TSL certificate is invalid. So the webpage was down for I don’t quite know how long, at least a week. Fixing it involved working around a Catch-22 type situation, but I managed to get it up and running, for a few days. That’s when I discovered that my BIND service wasn’t working properly, which didn’t affect the viewing audience but was causing some problems behind the scenes as some functionality that I use required DNS resolution from inside the local network, which is what I use BIND for. I had a convention coming up at the end of the week, so I decided it was important to fix. At this time I was down the coast for a few days, about an hour’s drive away from home. I adjusted some settings, rebooted the server, and then nothing. I couldn’t reconnect, and the web page had gone down completely. This was more than an inconvenience since I didn’t have much spare time to work on it before I went to Skepticon, by which time I NEEDED the whole system up and running. Basically I had to hope that I could get everything back up and running on a Thursday afternoon before flying out at the crack of dawn the following day.

Upon returning home, things just went from bad to worse. I had assumed a simple error had to be cleared that was preventing the server from booting up properly. I’ve had this problem once before and while irritating it’s a really simple fix. But not only was this not the case, but it seemed nothing was working properly. You see, I decided that the novelty of seeing the “Uptime” counter on the server getting higher and higher, indicating that the system had been running continuously without shutdown, was too much for my dorkbrain to resist. Apparently in the 90 days that the system had been live for, it had accumulated a few incompatible updates that didn’t pose a problem until I rebooted, and then all hell broke loose. The server was booting fine, but nothing could connect to it, and while the server could contact out, I couldn’t send files to a remote computer, meaning I had to disassemble it to get the hard drive out in order to access the backup files. The day before I hope on a plane to Sydney where I hopefully get to show some people my podcast and I’ve completely disassembled a key piece of hardware.

After messing around for an hour trying to get the backup to write to the memory card for the server, I realised that the SD card adaptor was set to “Lock”, which is why it was coming up with a read-only error no matter what I did. Derp! After solving this problem, it happily restored the backup. I put the memory card back into the server, booted it, and SUCCESS! Apache loaded fine, the firewall loaded, and the BIND service was working fine. Sort of. At least I was able to get it to take over as the primary name server, but it still wasn’t resolving the website, instead pointing to the external address (which doesn’t work from inside the network). After a little messing around I fixed that, and then fixed the security certificates again. And that’s when I realised the dumbest fail of them all, I had been slack with my backups. Apparently I had posted two whole episodes since my last backup. This was no big deal since I had the episodes posted on Libsyn, so it was merely a matter of copy/paste to bring the episodes back up to date, but it was a clear indication that I need to lift my game a bit.

So if you’ve been trying to get on to the website in the last couple of weeks, you might have had a little trouble connecting. That is my bad, but don’t worry, we didn’t go anyway. Just had some technical difficulties, and learned some lessons, mostly in the extent of my own arrogance. It won’t happen again! I managed to get it all up and running smoothly by yesterday evening, at which point I decided to call it a day on the IT stuff and pack my bags. All I had to do in the morning is repost the last two episodes, simple stuff.

So here I am in my Airbnb room getting ready to head out and mingle with some of the world’s prominent sceptics, both in and out of the podcasting community. This is an opportunity to network a little, see who I can bring my skill sets to, and maybe get some more attention to the podcast, which is great because the more attention the podcast is getting, the easier it is to find help when I need someone to fill in, which means a smoother more consistent podcast. And who doesn’t want that?