Hacking around memory limitations in shared hosting.

May 30 2019

Longtime readers are aware that I've been a customer of Dreamhost for quite a few years now, and by and large they've done all right by me.  They haven't complained (much) about all the stuff I have running there, and I try to keep my hosted databases in good condition.  However, the server they have my stuff on is starting to act wonky.  Periodic outages mostly, but when my Wallabag installation started throwing all sorts of errors and generally not working right, that got under my skin in a fairly big hurry.  I reinstalled.  I upgraded to the latest stable release.  I installed the latest commit from the source code repository401 and 500 errors as far as the eye could see whenever I tried to do anything regardless of what I did.

In a misguided attempt to figure out what was going on, I bit the bullet and installed PHP on one of my servers, along with all of the usual dependencies and tried to replicate my setup at Dreamhost.  What that was a bit tricky and took some debugging I eventually got it to work.  It was getting my data out of the sorta-kinda-broken setup that proved troublesome.

An interesting discovery about Dreamhost.

Dec 05 2017

As you may or may not be aware, I've been a customer of Dreamhost for many years now (if you want to give them a try, here's my referral link).  Both professionally and personally, I've been hosting stuff with them without many complaints (their grousing about my websites being too large is entirely reasonable given that I'm on their shared hosting plan).  Something always got me about their SSL support, though, was that you had to buy a unique IP address from them if you wanted to use it.  That cost a pretty penny, almost as much as I pay every year for hosting service.  After all, there's the SNI protocol which essentially lets you put SSL on multiple websites hosted at the same IP address.  It's been around since 2006 and has been supported by Apache since v2.2.12 so there wasn't any real reason to not offer it.  On the other hand, though, IPv4 addresses are getting pretty thin on the ground so paying for the privilege so I could have SSL on my website was worth it.  Plus, Dreamhost has to sell services to stay in business, and sometimes that means paying for perks as much as you or I might be annoyed by it.

A couple of years ago Dreamhost started offering free SSL certificates through their partnership with the Let's Encrypt project if you were a customer.  The idea is that you could click a couple of buttons in their control panel and they'd hook you up with an automatically renewing SSL cert for your website.  So, of course I jumped at the opportunity because I got tired of the self-signed certificate errors everybody was getting.  Comes with the territory.

Last weekend, for whatever reason I got it in my head to e-mail customer support and ask them if I had to keep paying for a unique IP address if I was using a Let's Encrypt certificate on my website.  I use acme-tiny to maintain the certs on my servers (I should write up how I do that one of these days), so... I figured the worst they could do was say "No."

As it turns out, if you use Let's Encrypt on Dreamhost, you do not have to keep paying for a unique IP address.  It's safe to go into your control panel, click that tiny little 'x' button, and save yourself some money every year.  I did so earlier today (about a week ago, as you'll reckon it) and everything seems copacetic.  This also means it's safe to turn on SSL for every site you have there, and it won't cost you any more money.  Though it would be good to donate to the Let's Encrypt project to support their work.

Upgrading Bolt CMS to v3.x.

Jan 02 2017

Since PivotX went out of support I've been running the Bolt CMS for my website at Dreamhost (referral link).  A couple of weeks back you may have noticed some trouble my site was having, due to my running into significant difficulty encountered when upgrading from the v2.x release series to the v3.x release series.  Some stuff went sideways, and I had to restore from backup at least once before I managed to get the upgrade procedure straightened out with the help of some of the developers in the Bolt IRC channel on Freenode.  If it wasn't for help from rossriley it would have taken significantly longer to un-fuck my website.

Here's the procedure that I used to get my site upgraded to the latest release of Bolt.

Fully remote backups of websites.

Nov 13 2016

A couple of weeks ago my webhosting provider sent me a polite e-mail to inform me that I was using too much disk space. A cursory examination of their e-mail showed that they were getting upset about the daily backups of my site that I was stashing in a hidden directory, and they really prefer that all files in your home directory be accessible. I ran a quick check and, sure enough, about twenty gigabytes times two weeks of daily backups adds up to a fair amount of disk space. So, the question is, how do I keep backing up all my stuff and not bother the admins any more than I have to?

Thankfully, that's a fairly straightforward operation. Beneath the cut is how I did it.