Website technology

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The is presently served from a machine known as thimble. Thimble is a recent acquisition, and took over the role previously played by jack. There is a list of things to do on the website.


The website has been hosted by a series of different machines: jack, thimble, bit, gem, red, snow.

Jack is an HP Pavilion purchased in early 1998. It has 224 Mbytes main memory (it has sockets for 3 memory modules: it came with 32M; 64M was added some years later; 128M was added 1/8/2006). Jack served up static web pages and the dynamic web pages from the blog with little trouble. But mediawiki was too big for its main memory (back at the 96M stage); as a result, jack spent quite a bit of time with disk activity, requiring much patience from those wanting to edit wiki pages.

Thimble is also an HP Pavilion. It has 256 Mbytes main memory, from which it serves up the wiki much more promptly than did jack. Thimble was probably manufactured in 1999-2000; we acquired it (using craigslist) used in 2005-12 for $75. For that price, it had no monitor, keyboard, or mouse. So, thimble shares those with jack, using a KVM switch (keyboard/video/mouse). We now have a used 17" eMachines monitor that those machines share.

Bit is yet another HP Pavilion - a Pavilion a630n (P4 2.8Ghz processor; 512M RAM (1G added 12/28/2008 and 1G added 12/29/2008 to yield 2.5G RAM); made late 2004?). The website was moved to bit on 10/8/2006, having been a craigslist purchase the previous day. In September 2007, 3 drives were added to bit. Each has 3 partitions and these 9 partitions are configured in RAID arrays that provide redundancy against failure of any one drive. There is a separate page describing the drive configuration in bit.

There is a blog entry on 1/7/2006 that reports on thimble disassembly and includes a photo of jack and thimble. And there is a blog entry of a week later showing jack in its new home. There is a blog entry on 10/8/2006 showing bit and thimble.

As of 1/20/2007, we have a new addition: a 'Next' brand box with a Epox EP-8KTA3 motherboard with AMD Athlon 900 MHz and 640 Mbytes (PC133).

As of November 2008, we have added 'ruby' with a pentium core 2 duo, 4G memory, 4 320G drives.

On May 17, 2014, was moved from bit to gem. Gem is Compaq nx7400 notebook computer with 2.5G memory and a 120G solid-state drive.


On May 17, 2014, upgraded mediawiki from 15.x to 1.22.6.

As of 2008012-06, bit runs Intrepid Ibex. It had been upgraded to Hardy Heron on 2008-05-25, and upgraded from Ubuntu Linux dapper to edgy and then to feisty both upgrades on 2007-09-09 and to gutsy on 2007-11-10. Jack originally ran the website with Ubuntu version 5.04 known as Hoary Hedgehog, but was upgraded on 2005-12-27 to Breezy and subsequently to Dapper.

The web pages that the world sees are served up by the Apache web server. MySQL databases store the content of the blog and the wiki. Most of the pages on this website are generated dynamically from code written in PHP (blog, wiki, webmail). Jack runs PHP4; thimble runs PHP5, which required a little patching in the blog and an updated version of the webmail interface.

The blog is based on software from the Geeklog project.

The wiki is based on the wiki engine software known as MediaWiki. Upgraded to 1.5.6 on 2006-01-29 and to 1.7.1 when thimble was rebuilt in September 2006; upgraded to 1.13.1 on 2008-09-06.

The webmail interface is written in PHP and is from the SquirrelMail project. The web server has been configured to provide access to the webmail interface via the SSL protocol (https, rather than http) so that email logon information and email delivery is encrypted. The mail delivery agent is Postfix, with Dovecot providing pop3 and mapi access, and procmail for local delivery. Mail from the outside world is received by postfix, which calls procmail, which stores local mail in /var/mail. Dovecot makes that stored mail available to squirrelmail (via mapi), which provides access (pages served up by apache2 and php) to a user of a web browser.

Email lists are provided by Mailman, which is written in Python, rather than PHP. (After install, remember to start mailman's qrunner using the mailman script in init.d.)

The home page (and some of the pages on, such as the reading list) is written in python on the django web framework.


Domain registration and domain name service through DynDNS. Router DDNS configuration requires something like the following;


See IP Addresses


To print from jack: