10 Years!!

Ten years ago TODAY (well at the time I am writing this at least), I posted my first weblog entry. At the time, I was against the establishment. It was very important to me that the code powering the side was all written by me. (Note: if you clicked on the previous link and it worked, I would again note that the same code I wrote 10 years ago is still reliably serving up content today.) It was the opposite of user friendly. I came up with my own mark-up language in the beginning. I wrote a language parser using regular expressions that I would use to add links, come up with summaries, and even create html markup on the fly. At the time, I was obsessed with Perl. I still respect a lot of what Perl can do. It was all about string manipulation. Everything was a string. It was all about how you manipulated those strings. This was just on the cusp of complex, “you design it”, type object oriented online programming. Today, my blog is powered by Graffiti CMS. It’s compatible with Windows Live Writer and highly configurable. However, at the time, the technology of the day was to either go with something like Radio (P.S. For the record, I once helped Dave with his wifi at a blogger meetup in Seattle) or to go with a hosted service like Live Journal.

I was leery of putting my words, my content, on someone else's servers. This is WAY before the days where it was common that sites had EULAs that allowed you to retain ownership of your own content. I was (*cough* am) running my own custom-built server and NOT interested in putting my words on other servers. I trusted my backup techniques and especially trusted my own sql design as well (properly indexed sql tables/databases still interest me today) over anyone else’s. This means that I poured hours and hours (weeks really) into the custom perl code base. Later on came the concept of RSS. I spent a lot of effort matching and implementing not only the full RSS 2.0 spec, but also the RSS 1.0 spec as well as a lot of the quirks of RSS readers of the day. Including completely implemented and compliant change headers such that I could returned not-changed results and not use much bandwidth.

Well, the last ten years have both gone by fast, yet offer a wide variety of memories and experiences. Blogging in 2002 was so much more free, so much more open, and more of a release than today. In this day in age, the letters TL and DR mean doom for the long form communication that is stream of consciousness blogging.
Back then, there was NO facebook, there was NO twitter. My blog was THE way that I communicated regularly with others outside of email. I REALLY miss that time. I had the time to be able to elaborately explain the depths of all thought, no matter how complex or intricate. These days are gone today unfortunately. I envy the hours… and hours… of free time I had back then to be able to spend time waxing philosophically over whatever I liked.

I did also have a specific purpose to this blog entry as well. Back in July of 2006, almost 4 years after starting my own custom blog, I was tired of constantly maintaining custom code every time that technology changed. The web was getting more visual and markup was getting more complicated and I was looking to utilize other tools to actually write the blog entries. For instance, I am writing this text using Windows Live Writer. At the time, through work, I had access to free hosting. At first, I used Sharepoint Blog services, then Graffiti.

However, at the end of August, this service was canceled and I am again on my own.

For now, I am pretty happy with Graffiti. I just wanted to find another host to move the database and asp.net hosting to. So, I tried Azure! My msdn membership gets me some Azure hosting, so I figured I would try it out.

Sadly, so far, I have hit nothing by road-blocks. THIS site is still not hosted on Azure. The first problem I found was that users which use a live custom domain (if you use your own hotmail address) can’t sign up for azure. Not only that, you can’t even sign in to the sign-up page at all. It took me emailing someone internally to get my own account to work. This means as far as I know, if you have your own custom hotmail account, you can’t sign up for Azure today at all (internally they fixed it for me, but after understanding the problem, regular users may not have any luck).

I also have an Amazon S3 account. It serves many of the photos on this site and also powers sites like jpmovies.org and blacknugget.info (other sites I play with web programming on). It’s not only dead-simple, but ALSO cheap. My average monthly bill to amazon is under 50c per month. That’s amazing for the speed and service that I get from it. I would gladly pay double that (12$ a year) to get asp.net hosting that works. (I haven’t found anything like this so far.) When I signed up for Azure, I was hopefully that it would be even easier to use. Microsoft has a pattern of being much easier to use all-around. However, this was not the case. It seemed that the focus of Azure is entirely on writing your own code from scratch and hosting it. To get started, they make you download an SDK and install Visual Studio. Without these two, there is nothing you can do. (To give some credit, someone from Azure actually called me today and helped a bit. You see, there is a hidden “beta” option to sign up for hosted vms (which is buried). Unfortunately, I can’t use them yet.)

So, I tried to get a new account setup. I am quite knowledgeable about online hosting and development, so I figured that it should be easy. I spent 8 hours just trying to get a web server deployed and a database setup. By the end of the experience, Azure had deleted all my progress (I had remoted to the machines and made custom edits, which Azure deleted) and actually shut off my account. (I actually appreciate this feature. You can choose to have them just stop serving before you leave the free level.) So for now, I have no online source for hosting. Today’s call gave me an idea I am following up on, but I have to wait 30 days for my account to be re-enabled. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Follow along both here and also on twitter for updates. (I updated my twitter account recently to be open.)

In the mean-time though, I am back to working on my S3 sites, since S3 is still working perfectly. It just can’t host something like ASP or PHP. (I wish it could.)

I also just returned from a trip to the Bay area as well, so watch here for pictures once I have them stitched together.

In the mean-time, here is to the next 10 years!! Smile


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