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Steve Kemp: What do you pay for, and what would you pay for?

Tue, 25/02/2014 - 15:30

There are times when I consider launching my own company again, most often when it is late at night and the inpetitude of so many other companies gets me too worked up. Then I sit back and think about details and write it off.

I've worked for myself in the past a couple of times, and each time it was both more fun and more difficult than expected. Getting a couple of clients is usually easy, getting a ten more is common, but getting "many" is hard and getting "lots" is something I've never done - lots of users for free sites though, along with the associated support burdon!

So the though dies away once I sit down and work out the net profit I'd need to live. My expenses are low, so let us pretend I can easily live on £1000 a month. So the "company" has to make more than that, to cover costs, but perhaps not much.

Pretend you were offering DNS hosting you'd probably be able to implement that easily on, say 10, virtual machines, net of £150 a month. Imagine clients pay £5 for an unlimited number of domains that means you need to have 1000+150/5 = 230 clients. Not impossible, but also not easy.

Pretend instead you're offering backup space, and the numbers get bigger because disk is expensive. Again getting some users would be easy, but getting lots would be hard because your competition is dropbox, skydrive, etc, etc.

Once you start thinking of "ideas" they come easily, but the hard part is being realistic about what people would pay for. As always the idea is the easy part, the execution is the hardest part. Realistically if I were to be desperate to work for myself at short notic I'd do the obvious thing - I'd buy a pair of ladders, a bucket, and clean windows. Low overheads, reasonable demand, and I'd be both "fit" and "outdoors".

When it comes to paying for online services off the top of my head I personally pay for maybe two things, both of them niche (although profitable for their providers I'm sure), and I know many people who live on the internet but pay for nothing.

For example I'm a VIP member of an online modeling community, which in theory allows me a higher chance of persuading interesting people to pose for me.

In practice the turnover on those sites is immense. Lots of cute boys and girls hear constantly "You're so pretty, you should be a model", which is true in perhaps 1% of cases, and the net result is you have a few hard working people who do good things day in day out, and many flighty teenagers who'll pose for two-three people, and then never do it again because they realise it is neither glamourous nor easy money.

Two things I've semi-serously considered recently where hosted "status pages", and hosted "domain parking", but both have many competitors and both I can see a) some people would pay for but b) not very many.

I suspect there is no universal "I'd pay for this" online service hwich is both competition free and genuinely trivial to setup, but I'd be curious to see what people are missing, and even more curious to see what people do pay for.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Debian Bits: Call for participants in the Google Summer of Code for Debian

Tue, 25/02/2014 - 11:15

The Google Summer of Code is a program that allows post-secondary students aged 18 and older to earn a stipend writing code for Free and Open Source Software projects during the summer.

Debian has just been accepted as a mentoring organization for this year's program! We're looking for students and mentors to make this GSoC in Debian the best ever!

Eligible students, now is the time to take a look at our project ideas list, engage with the mentors for the projects you find interesting, and start working on your application! For more information, please read the FAQ and the Program Timeline on Google's website.

Mentors for prospective projects can still submit proposals on the project ideas list. You also need to send an email to the mailing list linked below to present your project in a few words. Feel also free to propose yourself as a co-mentor for one of the listed projects, more help is always welcome!

If you are interested, we encourage you to come and chat with us on irc (#debian-soc on irc.oftc.net), or to send an email to the SoC coordination mailing-list (subscribe). Most of the Debian-specific GSoC information can be found on our wiki pages, but don't be afraid to ask us directly on irc or via email.

We're looking forward to work with an amazing team of students and mentors again this summer!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Tony Whitmore: I think we’re going to need torches

Mon, 24/02/2014 - 23:19

I spent nearly 7 hours in the same cinema seat this weekend. The BBC and the BFI were celebrating the return of several missing episodes of Doctor Who to the archives by holding a marathon screening at the Prince Charles cinema in Leicester Square. All twelve episodes of “The Enemy of the World” and “The Web of Fear” were shown back-to-back, with only two short comfort breaks. That’s a lot of Doctor Who, even for me.

The panel after the screening was expertly moderated by Toby Hadoke. Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines were joined by Ralph Watson, who played Captain Knight in “The Web of Fear,” the role that was originally going to be played by Nicholas Courtney before he was promoted to play the Brigadier. Ralph was certainly talkative and brought some fresh stories and recollections, particular about his working relationship with Douglas Camfield. Michael Troughton was also on stage to reminisce about his father’s dual roles in “The Enemy of the World” and his visit to the London Underground set with the yetis.

I think the BBC and the BFI were using this event to see if there is sufficient interest in screenings now that the anniversary year celebrations are over. I hope they are convinced, although I would happily settle for a single six episode story rather than two! It was great to geek out with James from the Doctor Who Podcast again.

The Prince Charles cinema, which is slightly smaller than NFT1 at the BFI Southbank, is a great choice of venue for this sort of cult screening. However, the availability of cinema snacks, combined with the duration of the screening, meant there was a lot more rustling going on than at the BFI. But I can live with that if I get to see more Doctor Who on the big screen.

 

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Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Debian Bits: Invitation to the MiniDebConf 2014 Barcelona: 15-16 March 2014

Mon, 24/02/2014 - 12:00

Debian Women will hold a MiniDebConf in Barcelona on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th of March, 2014. Everyone is invited to both talks and social events, but the speakers will all be people who identify themselves as female. This is not a conference about women in Free Software, or women in Debian, rather a usual Debian Mini-DebConf where all the speakers are women.

The talks schedule has already been published. It is going to be an exciting event, packed with interesting talks for all audiences, in a beautiful venue, in one of the most famous European cities.

Registration is not mandatory, but strongly encouraged, as it helps the event's organisation and logistics. Please, register in the wiki.

We are still raising funds to cover the costs of running the conference and to offer travel sponsorship to people who can't pay for it. Please, consider donating any amount you can in our crowd-funding campaign, or contact us if you would like to become a sponsor.

The conference organisers want to thank the organisations that have already became sponsors, making this event possible, and specially our Platinum sponsor, Google; our Gold sponsors, Càtedra de Programari Lliure - Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Blue Systems and our Silver sponsors, CAtalan LInux Users, CAPSiDE and Fluendo.

For more information, visit the website of the event: http://bcn2014.mini.debconf.org

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Kemp: Two minor toys ..

Sun, 23/02/2014 - 08:56

Two minor things:

graphite_send

A simple shell-script to submit metrics to a graphite server, extensible via local plugins, but covers the obvious metrics by default.

Metrics are submitted via simple calls to netcat.

Trivial, but much more lightweight than collectd and similar.

HTML::Emoji

A perl module for converting HTML like "<p>:smile:</p>" into something graphical.

This was written for my markdown sharing site, but is pretty fun.

The konami-code page demonstrates usage.

(This parses the HTML so it won't transform attributes, ids, or anything that isn't in the "text" part of any HTML input.)

The graphite sending script is perhaps the most useful, but at the same time it feels too small to be a package of its own. I'm tempted to bundle it up into my sysadmin-util collection, but I can't quite decide if it belongs there either.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Kemp: Changing my stack ..

Sat, 22/02/2014 - 12:32

For the past few years I've hosted all my websites in a "special" way:

  • Each website runs under its own UID.
  • Each website runs a local thttpd / webserver.
  • Each server binds to localhost, on a high-port.
    • My recipe is that the port of the webserver for user "foo" is "$(id -u foo)".
  • On the front-end I have a proxy to route connections to the appropriate back-end, based on the Host header.
  • The webserver I chose initially was thttpd, which gained points because it was small, auditable, and simple to launch. Something like this was my recipe:

    #!/bin/sh exec thttpd -D -C /srv/steve.org.uk/thttpd.conf

    Unfortunately thttpd suffers from a few omissions, most notably it doesn't support either "Keep-Alive", or "Compression" (i.e. gzip/deflate), so it would always be slower than I wanted.

    On the plus side it was simple to use, supported CGI scripts, and served me well once I'd patched it to support X-Forwarded-For for IPv6 connections.

    Recently I setup a server optimization site and was a little disappointed that the site itself scored poorly on Google's page-speed test. So I removed thttpd for that site, and replacing it with nginx. The end result was that the site scored 98/100 on Google's page-speed test. Progress. Unfortunately I couldn't do that globally because nginx doesn't support old-school plain CGI scripts.

    So last night I removed both nginx and thttpd, and now every site on my box is hosted using lighttpd.

    There weren't too many differences in the setup, though I had to add some rules to add caching for *.css, etc, and some of my code needed updating.

    Beyond that today I've setup a dedicated docker host - which allows me to easily spin up containers. Currently I've got graphite monitoring for my random hosts, and a wordpress guest for plugin development/testing.

    Now to go back to reading Off to be the wizard .. - not as good as Rick Cook's wizardry series (which got less good as time went on, but started off strongly), but still entertaining.

    Categories: LUG Community Blogs

    Tony Whitmore: It’s all in the eyes

    Wed, 19/02/2014 - 22:23

    I was rather excited to receive my box set of Doctor Who: Dark Eyes 2 today. Not just because it’s the follow-up to the BBC Audio Drama Award-winning first series. Here’s the splendid artwork that accompanies the 4 CD release:

    You see the photographs of Nicola Walker from Spooks on the box, album art and even the disk itself? I took those! Thanks to the design wizardry of Damien May they blend seamlessly with the photographs of Paul McGann, Ruth Bradley and Alex Macqueen in costume that they already had. It’s tremendously exciting to see one’s efforts printed on an actual BBC authorised CD.

    Nick Briggs (Executive Producer and voice of the Daleks) asked if I could attend the recording session at the studio to photograph Nicola, Alex, Ruth and other cast members. Not knowing exactly what I would encounter when I got there, I tried to cover all the possibilities. I ended up shooting using off camera flash to get the dramatic lighting suitable for the covers and album art, and natural light for the more straight-forward shots. It was fascinating to see how a complex audio drama is recorded, and yes, the lunches at the Big Finish studios are every bit as good as they are made out to be!

    See, that’s my actual name! In the same listing as Terry Nation and Ron Grainer. I never thought I would see that happen.

    I can see more of my photos of Ruth (below), Alex and Nicola in issue 60 of Big Finish’s free magazine, Vortex. Dark Eyes 2 is available now from bigfinish.com. I suppose I better go and listen to it now!

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    Categories: LUG Community Blogs

    Steve Kemp: My pastebin will now run under docker.

    Mon, 17/02/2014 - 19:59

    I've updated my markdown-pastebin site, to be a little cleaner, and to avoid spidering issues.

    Previously every piece of uploaded text received an incrementing integer to describe it - which meant it was trivially easy for others to see how many pieces of text had been uploaded, and to spider all past uploads (unless the user deleted them).

    Now each fresh paste receives a random UUID to describe it, and this means spidering is no longer feasible.

    I've also posted the source code to Gitub so folk can report bugs, fork, etc:

    That source code now includes a Dockerfile which allows you to quickly and easily build your own container running this wonderful service, and launch it without worrying about trashing your server ;)

    Anyway other than the user-interface overhaul it is still as functional, or not, as it used to be!

    Categories: LUG Community Blogs

    Adam Trickett: Picasa Web: 2014-02-16

    Sun, 16/02/2014 - 19:09
    Date: 16 Feb 2014
    Number of Photos in Album: 1

    View Album

    Categories: LUG Community Blogs

    Adam Trickett: Picasa Web: 2014-02-16

    Sun, 16/02/2014 - 19:09
    Date: 16 Feb 2014
    Number of Photos in Album: 1

    View Album

    Categories: LUG Community Blogs

    Adam Trickett: Picasa Web: 2014-02-16

    Sun, 16/02/2014 - 19:08
    Date: 16 Feb 2014
    Number of Photos in Album: 1

    View Album

    Categories: LUG Community Blogs

    Steve Kemp: Pastebin site with markdown support

    Sun, 16/02/2014 - 17:47

    Today I setup a new website:

    Something I want, something I'll use, and something that might be useful to others?

    Categories: LUG Community Blogs