I’ve moved my hosting back to SiteGround

This week I moved both my websites (this one and SEC digital calendar and lectionary) back to SiteGround.

Just over 48 hours ago I updated the DNS settings and initiated the switch to the new server. Other than a slightly misconfigured Cloudflare CDN everything has gone smoothly. This is in part due to my experience of having done this a couple of times now, and in part due to the excellent and clear controls that SiteGround offers behind the scenes.

Why move away from Tsohost?

Almost a year ago, back in January I moved my sites from SiteGround, with whom I’d been for two years, to Tsohost. The main reason was that I wanted to save some money and in the past I’d had a good service from Tsohost, so they seemed like the logical destination.

But as they say, “Buy cheap, buy twice”.

It was both security concerns and hosting stability issues that drove me from Tsohost back to SiteGround at this end of the year.

I may just be unfortunate in my bad experience with Tsohost. I can accept that I may just have had an isolated experience, but I have heard similar things from other developers who reported that, from their perspective, Tsohost’s performance dropped when they were bought out in 2011.

Security concerns

Within 48 hours of moving this blog from SiteGround (who pride themselves on their security) to Tsohost (who clearly don’t) my site was hacked. A little exploration showed that it had been from a user in Russia. It took me about three or four days to get to the bottom of it, which included manually searching through WordPress files and the database.

I had asked my new host for support but got very little. They pushed it all back to me.

“You’re on your own, mate!” seemed to be the attitude. It’s your site, you probably installed something dodgy; it’s your fault, you sort it out.

That was after I’d emailed them and asked if they could identify where the breach had been. I uploaded the original pre-migration backup to Dropbox and asked them to take a look. Instead, they used those files (which I had searched and were clean) and overwrote my blog. I wasn’t happy, and wrote them this support call message:

Now, why would you do that without first asking my permission? I didn’t ask you to do that. I had already done that.

What I am asking is: how did someone gain access to my website? And what can I do to prevent it?

It just seems strangely coincidental that I had not a single security concern while I was on SiteGround for two years, and on Heart Internet for five before that, but within 24 to 48 hours of moving to Tsohost my site gets hacked.

And now you migrate my site over again, overwriting the latest changes that I’d made without my permission. I’m sorry but I’m not exactly happy or confident that my site is going to be secure on your servers now.

Needless to say, the site got hacked again.

After clearing it up (again) and hardening my site security, the temptation to immediately return to SiteGround was strong. However, I thought I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and see how things panned out.

Stability issues

That confidence was short-lived.

Jetpack is a WordPress plug, that apart from other things, will alert you when your site goes offline.

Here is a screenshot of some of the emails I received in the first few months of moving to Tsohost.

Emails that all have the subject line Jetpack Monitor site is not loading
I received 105 of these emails in the first five months

By the end of May I had received over 100 of these emails. At one point my site was going down three or four times a day.

It took a bit of nagging Tsohost to convince them to move my database to another server. After that things got a little better. But the damage had been done and I was determined to get my site off their hosting as soon as I could.

Moving back to SiteGround

While I was open to the idea of using another host—and I had some really helpful chats on the phone with Jack from UKFast, with whom I was very impressed—I decided to return to SiteGround.

In part because of my previous experience, and in part because SiteGround are recommended by WordPress. And getting a 70% discount on their GoGeek hosting package in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale also helped.

So, I’m now back hosting with SiteGround. Their support has already been superb, their control panel options are clear and straight forward, and their online documentation is among the best and most helpful that I’ve ever seen.

If you are looking for web hosting, I recommend SiteGround.

Trello coloured lists for Tampermonkey updated to v4.x

Coloured lists make identifying their purpose quicker at a glance
Coloured lists makes identifying their purpose quicker at a glance

This evening I updated a script I first wrote back in March 2014. I wrote about it on the old University of St Andrews web team blog.

The script, which runs in the browser using an add-on such as Tampermonkey, lets you define Trello list titles to search for, and then apply a background colour to it.

It’s not a particular complex script. I daresay it could be optimised further, but it has such a low impact on performance that I’m happy to leave it as it is.

Improvements for v4.0.0 include:

  • NEW Add code to allow titles to be case-insensitive (so ‘DONE’, ‘Done’ and ‘done’ are covered with the same rule).
  • FIX Make code easier to read and therefore update.
  • FIX Add better comments.
  • CHANGE Allow titles to be grouped together (in alphabetical order) in the same rule, to prevent a lot of duplicate code.
  • CHANGE Change colours to a more cohesive set.
  • CHANGE Reorganise rules by colour.
  • CHANGE Update UserScript block.
  • CHANGE Update license to GNU General Public License v3.0.
  • CHANGE Update README.md file to provide more useful information.

Update

Saturday 4 November 2017

I made a further couple of fixes this morning:

  • FIX Ensure colour of labels while editing is consistent regardless of background colour. There was a bug in the previous code where you couldn’t read the text while editing dark list titles.
  • FIX Scrum for Trello – Ensure list totals are visible on dark lists.

Check out the code on GitHub.

The Vale of Rest by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, 1858-1859.

Two nuns in a graveyard at dusk, one sits looking at the viewer, holding prayer beads, the other has sleeves rolled up digging a grave
The Vale of Rest by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, 1858-1859

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

I was chatting with a friend the other night about art, and about visiting art galleries. It got me thinking about this painting, The Vale of Rest, by Sir John Everett Millais that used to hang in the Tate gallery on the north bank of the Thames back in the mid-1990s.

My friend Chris was saying how much he loves visiting art galleries with a friend of his because not only does he know the stories behind many of the paintings, he is also aware of the historical context in which they were painted. Often, it seems, that certain art movements began in response to something else that was going on at the time: cubism, impressionism… and that’s pretty much where my art history knowledge runs dry.

When I lived in central London in the mid-90s the Tate gallery sat on the route between my flat and my work. I would frequently pop in on my way home, and marvel at these enormous works of art by Turner and … Hooch?

But it was this painting by Sir John Everett Millais that kept bringing me back. There was just something about it that fired my imagination and intrigue. The story behind the painting is interesting, but I knew nothing of that at the time.

I was fascinated by the portrayal of the two nuns. One sitting with prayer beads in her hand, looking in the direction of the viewer; the other, with sleeves rolled up, digging a grave. For whom is she digging it? In the distance, above her head there is a bell tower. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. The painting is set at dusk, the sun clearly dying in the background.

This is what the display caption read in 2010, long after I had stopped visiting the painting, “Stirred by the spirituality and yearning in Mendelssohn’s song ‘Ruhetal’, here Millais’ theme is death, signified by the presence of the grave, skull and funerary wreaths, and in the intense and solemn colours of a graveyard touched with the last rays of a setting sun. Viewers are invited to contemplate their own mortality through the preparation of the new grave in the foreground and the nun who gazes out towards them. Despite the pain and sadness in death, the title offers hope that it will bring repose from life’s cares and an infinite contentment.”

This is a painting that I visit from time to time online. It reminds me of a simpler time in my life, but it also reminds me to slow down and appreciate what I have around me now. The painting suggests a slow pace of life, and a life of honest, hard work amidst gentleness and contentment. And those, for me, are things to aspire to.

Queen—All Dead, All Dead (with Freddie Mercury vocals)

Queen’s News of the World (1977) album turned 40 years old this year. I was five years old when it came out. It would be six or seven years more until Queen were firmly on my radar, and so would begin a lifelong love of the band.

To celebrate the anniversary of the album’s release, Queen are releasing a box set on Friday 17 November that includes a number of recently unearthed out-takes and rarities.

News of the World 40th anniversary box set
News of the World 40th anniversary box set

Among the rarities is this hybrid version of “All Dead, All Dead” (side 1, track 4) featuring alternative lyrics and vocals from Freddie Mercury.

What I didn’t realise, all these years of listening to the song, is that the song was written by Brian May about the death of his childhood cat.

It’s a beautiful song, even if does have the ‘wrong’ lyrics.

The box set is released on Friday 17 November costing £109.99.

Snail Monkey

Artists impression of what a snail monkey might look like: a monkey with a snail shell on its back
Artists impression of what a snail monkey might look like

It all began with a weird conversation one bedtime between my son Isaac (6) and me. Somehow—I can’t remember the route—the conversation settled on fantasising about a creature called a ‘snail monkey’.

Isaac then asked me to create a website for him to share the news with the world.

How could I possibly say no?

So here it is: snailmonkey.wordpress.com.


It turns out, that we weren’t the first to think about this. Check out our first blog post called Maybe there is such a thing…

Meet the Other Gareth Saunders

Oyster card

Recently, while reviewing various online accounts, I discovered that my Oyster card—the travel card used on London transport—was out of date: a first generation Oyster card. I was advised to apply for a second generation Oyster card.

As I was completing the form I wasn’t able to select ‘Rev’ from the options available, so I selected ‘Other’.

This is the letter I received today, with my replacement card.

Wait! This letter isn't for me, it's for the Other Gareth Saunders.
Wait! This letter isn’t for me, it’s for the Other Gareth Saunders.

RAVPower 30W 3-port USB UK wall charger review

RAVPower 30W 3-port USB wall charger
RAVPower 30W 3-port USB wall charger

The RAVPower RP-PC020 is a 30W 3-port USB wall charger that, as the name suggests, allows up to three devices to charge simultaneously.

Each port offers the same output: DC 5V at a maximum of 2.5A, so it should be suitable for charging anything from the most humble feature phone to a smartphone or tablet; I’ve used mine to charge all three without incident. The built-in iSmart technology adjusts the output automatically so that each device charges quickly and safely.

The charger comes packaged in a small, sturdy white box with a simple and attractive design. It already looks and feels like a quality product.

Opening the box I was greeted by the quick start guide (written in six languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese) draped over the charger, and a friendly “Hello” written on the cover. I like it already.

Inside the box, the charger was wrapped in a plastic sleeve and nestled between two cardboard arms within the box, offering excellent protection for transit or an accidental drop. The only other item in the box is a small card with details about a free 12-month extended warranty.

The charger itself seems solid: this feels like a quality product. The model I have is encased in hard, shiny white plastic with RAVPower written on one side and iSmart on the other. On the side closest to the floor when plugged into a wall socket is written model name and number, input and output values plus various other health and safety icons. The remaining sides offer the UK 3-pin plug and opposite it three USB type A ports.

When plugged in and switched on the USB ports light up, a light blue/white colour, which makes plugging USB cables into it in the dark a little easier — even if you always try to plug it in the wrong way first… oh for when USB C becomes the standard).

One niggle I have with many computer-related plugs is that when plugged into a multisocket block many plugs are too long and so obscure the socket opposite, reducing the number of available sockets by one. Happily this is not one of them: the body of the charger does not extend beyond the height of the plug meaning that you can always plug in something else opposite. The whole unit is really neat and portable; I wouldn’t think twice about throwing this in my bag and taking it with me — it takes up hardly any space at all.

All in all, I am delighted with this adapter. As I’ve already said, it feels like a quality product, I love that the sockets light up, and that it can handle three cables at once means that I now use this as my primary adapter for my smartphone and tablet, with a spare socket for guests or my children’s Amazon Fire tablets. I would wholeheartedly recommend this adapter.

In the interests of transparency: I was sent this product by RAVPower for review. I am not connected to the company in any way apart from having been a former customer.

Why I decided to SHARE my blood for medical research

The word share surrounding by multi-coloured speech bubbles

Although I attend clinics at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee on a regular basis, on account of my having inherited autosomal dominant polycystic kidney (ADPKD) disease from my dad, the last time I visited Ninewells Hospital in Dundee was when I accompanied a really close friend to her clinic appointment.

While I was waiting for her to finish, I got chatting to a woman in the waiting room who turned out to be a coordinator for SHARE. She told me about the scheme and I signed up straight away.

What is SHARE?

SHARE, the Scottish Health Research Register, is a new NHS Research Scotland initiative created to establish a register of people interested in participating in health research.

When you sign up for SHARE you agree to allowing them to use coded data in their various NHS computer records to check whether you might be suitable for health research studies.

One example is in allowing SHARE to use any leftover blood following routine clinical testing.

This can be incredibly useful when it comes to developing new tests, treatments and cures for a wide variety of health conditions.

Why I joined

Every time I visit the renal clinic—currently every six to nine months—I have blood taken to check my kidney function. They can’t possibly use it all when they do their tests, so I thought it sensible to give permission for my leftover blood to be used for research purposes.

As I write, there are currently 177,848 people registered.

You can find out more on the Register for SHARE website from NHS Scotland.

 

Deliberately inconvenient everyday objects

I really like these deliberately inconvenient everyday objects by Athens-based architect Katerina Kamprani.

They would make a good companion resource while reading Donald A Norman’s classic book The Design of Everyday Things.

Concrete umbrella by Katerina Kamprani
Concrete umbrella by Katerina Kamprani
Chain fork by Katerina Kamprani
Chain fork by Katerina Kamprani
Champagne glass for two by Katerina Kamprani
Champagne glass for two by Katerina Kamprani

See the whole collection at The Uncomfortable.