Web Hosting? What’s That?

When I transferred the blog to WordPress I promised to write a guide to creating your blog on WordPress, or at least describe how I transferred the blog from Google’s Blogger service to a self-hosted installation of WordPress. Well, the guide to how this might be done really has to start with getting your own site up and running, not with the process of getting 10+ years of Blogger blog entries to appear in WordPress. WordPress is hands down one of the best ways to get your writing in front of people who want to read it, but WordPress is just the front end of a process that starts with deciding on a web host.

So, starting from the beginning, the question is should you self-host or should you pay someone to host your site? You can self-host your own website, we did that for years on a Dell PC that we had bought for me to do CAD on. We slapped a second NIC card in it and it was the router/web host for the family until it died a few years back. When we set that system up we had programmers who worked for Dell wandering in and out of the house on a pretty regular basis. It was a simple thing to get one of them to set up a Linux shell on the old CAD system, load Apache on it, do their programming magic, and presto we had a webhost. A black box that I never did manage to figure out how not to break, so I left it alone aside from editing my homepage. I had a static page on ranthonysteele.com that I paid for for years and years for no good reason other than that I figured I needed a website. I was a technologist, a CAD evangelist, and I was quite full of confidence in my unique abilities back when the internet was young and I was certain that the best times in life were still ahead of me.

But this article isn’t about how poor health can ambush and destroy the best laid plans of men. Anyone who doubts this is true should read up on the life of Alexander the Great. The greatest conqueror on the face of the Earth then or now, who was rudely interrupted in the middle of his conquest of Asia with a sudden illness and subsequent painful death. My life plans were much less grandiose than that, and don’t involve the enslavement of entire regions of the planet, and I’m not dead (at least not yet) so I’ve been diverted and not canceled, at least. But being here writing about how to get blogging software to work on a site you run yourself was not where I wanted to be eighteen years down the road. And I’m still not up to that, or up to recommending that you self-host even the most basic site on today’s internet.

I never got the hang of programming. I never found any joy in it. I just wanted to be able to program a website without having to do all the work involved in writing all the code for myself on top of all of the CAD work that I was already engaged in at the time. I knew I hated writing code from the few times that I tested/edited/wrote lisp scripts for AutoCAD. Luckily we had some real programmers on staff at one of the architecture offices I worked for, so most of my work with scripts was testing and not writing. But I did enough of it that I knew that the fiddly, nitpicking work of making sure that every character in the code was absolutely perfect was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So the static page remained static for years on end, while I relied on Blogger to keep doing their Blogger thing as a few years turned into ten and then into fifteen.

The Wife on the other hand needed to maintain her professional presence in the digital world. She had to create and maintain websites through all of the really early years of the world wide web, websites for many different versions of her own professional abilities (effects, actor, producer, unlicensed broadcast engineer, etc)  and eventually she wound up maintaining websites for many different people. When she first started using her current web host she set up a demonstration account to show me what we could do with blogging software. I thought it was interesting but maintaining my own website looked too much like programming to me. Besides, I had a history on Blogger and I didn’t want to lose it.

…And then Blogger started to show the effects of Google not seeing blogging as one of its money-making features. The exploitation of programming holes the long unpatched bugs in the web interface not to mention the released and never updated mobile app. So when I turned to her with my Blogger is losing my drafts problem, she threw together another website for me on her hosting service using my old ranthonysteele.com URL, and I was in business for myself. At least to all external observers, I was flying on my own.

Except, I still didn’t understand one damn thing about what it was I was doing. I’m still not a programmer. Learning the in’s and out’s of maintaining a website is much harder than my experience with learning architecture was. Learning how to build something is as simple as wandering through a construction site and asking questions over and over. This is something I’ve done since the town doctor bought property across the street from my family in Leoti, Kansas, and proceeded to have a house built there. I was six or seven years old then, and construction was this weird miracle process that I experienced first hand through each stage as I wandered that construction site on a daily basis.

A small U.S. town in the 70’s was such a wonderful place and time to grow up, from that perspective. No one cared that a child, or a group of children, wandered onto construction sites. They’d even answer questions if you asked nice, before shoeing you away so they could get back to work. I cut my architectural teeth that way, on dozens of construction sites. Wandering into construction wherever I stumbled across it, fascinated by the simple act of creation that was involved in them. Wandering around in finished buildings and then going places that aren’t finished for public occupancy so that I could see how all the pieces went together to form the seamless facade that is what the public sees.

Programming is invisible, like the structure hidden behind the finish in your home. Programming is best when you never notice it. If you notice the programming, it is like noticing that whoever taped and floated the wallboard for your office wall wasn’t very good at their job. You have to know where to look in order to find the programs that run everything on the web. Right click on any window in your browser, for example, and pick view page source. You’ll get a nearly incomprehensible page of text characters as a result. Incomprehensible, if you are a layman.

If you work with HTML for awhile, something you will have had to do if you’ve written anything for the web and cared about how it looked, the text that is displayed becomes more comprehensible. You can seperate commands <text> from the rest of the content on the page simply by recognizing the characters that denote a command. If you’ve been working around websites for years like I have, you become convinced you know more about the subject of putting stuff on the internet than you actually do. Until you have to do the work to get it there, and there is no one willing to talk to you about it.

So if you find yourself in the predicament I’m describing, trying to figure out how to get stuff to show up on the internet, this guide is for you. Welcome. Let’s learn stuff together, eh? The first thing you want to decide is where to host your website. That’s your first job. 

Most cheapskates will be tempted to host their own website. My advice is don’t. Don’t do it unless you are a programmer and you have enough cash to pay for all of the hardware you will need (and if you are that person, you won’t be reading this in the first place) That is my best advice right there. If you aren’t a programmer then hosting your own website is ultimately only going to create another digital zombie that can be used to attack other websites, or it will serve as a ransom target. A liability that will cost you more than the hosting fees will cost you. So don’t be John Podesta. Be smart, like Hillary Clinton. What, Hillary Clinton isn’t smart? She didn’t get caught, did she? I rest my case. Hire people to do the stuff you don’t know how to do, and pay them well to do it. You’ll thank me for that advice, if you follow it.

You also don’t want to necessarily go with the cheapest web host. Do you want the cheapest doctor you can find, or the one that knows enough to help you and not hurt you? There are several websites that can help with this task, selecting a web host. Who is hosting this? is one of those sites. Look around to see what the people in your line of work are doing. See what other comparable web hosts are offering and for what price. Go with someone who can help you in a crisis, not just someone who has the cheapest price. You can even buy space from a web host so you can act as a web host. This is what the Wife is doing, she’s just not making any money off of me when she does it.

So you have your web host selected? Good.

A web host provides the software you will be using to create your website. Everything to do with computers requires software, but the internet is everywhere and in everything these days, so it is easy to forget that there is code behind all this interconnectivity that we enjoy today. Your web host will have software it utilizes, and that software is most likely going to be Apache. As an open source evangelist, I wouldn’t suggest you run anything else on your web servers.

ASF 20th Anniversary – Mar 26, 2019

Cpanel is the most common graphical user interface for Apache once you get beyond the command line; and frankly, why use the command line if you don’t have to? Cpanel is short for Control Panel. If I have to tell you what a Control Panel is then you haven’t been doing this long enough. Take some basic computer classes, or just pay SquareSpace for their services. They’ll happily hold your hand, given how much you will be paying them. If you don’t have the money for Squarespace (it isn’t cheap) and can manage without their very useful 24/7 helpline, but still want to be using a super simple interface, there is Wix.com and Weebly.com. Squarespace isn’t paying me a dime to recommend them, therefore I’ll go the distance and give you a few more options.

Going hand in hand with Cpanel is WHM, the WebHost Manager (this will be important in the next section) Their user documentation is here and here. If your web host uses Apache they are most likely going to be using Cpanel and WHM as the control panel and manager for the hosting service. Once you have signed up with a web host you are now dabbling in web hosting, at least vicariously. WHM is your best friend when managing a web host. You should probably get to know your new best friend better.

CPanel – Softaculous

If your site is new on the web hosting service, it is a pretty simple thing to just pick the software you want to use from the software list that your web host should offer (softaculous on our web host) WordPress is very likely to be one of them. Install that software and start playing around. You’ll break things a few times, but that’s great. You want to break things when you are learning new stuff. Use the installer to uninstall, and start over. Have fun! If your site is a new site with a new web host then congratulations, you’re done. If you are like me, borrowing space on someone else’s hosting site, then you are only getting started. Read on for the dreaded WHM and the effective separation of your shit from their shit.

Still Being Sent to Blogspot?

I just figured out that the domain forwarding I set up in blogger is failing for some reason now in mobile interfaces. this post link //ranthonysteele.blogspot.com/2018/12/bye-blogger.html should take you to the article on this website that corresponds to that article on Blogger (you’ll get a generic landing page since there isn’t an article of that name) In any mobile browser you use to open it, you will probably be taken to the article as it still exists on blogspot.com. I could have sworn I checked the forwarder on my phone after I first made the switch. WTF?

Weirdly, you can be redirected to the correct address by trying to navigate from inside the blogspot address. I have no idea why it even goes there at all in the first place. I’m guessing it’s a mobile tag that the code in the blogspot theme that redirects here doesn’t know how to handle. I’ll have to troubleshoot it eventually, I guess. Doesn’t really matter. It kicked me into copying new articles to the old address, a task I had been neglecting. I so often re-edit an article after it is first published that it becomes tedious making manual backups that no-one is supposed to see in the first place. Knowing people will possibly see the blog not being updated any longer? OK, that’s enough motivation.

Facebook.

Something Blogger Could Never Do

Showing off. That’s all I’m doing here.

What would Blogger never do? It would never let me write and edit a blog entry from different locations successfully. Sequentially. Oh, you could write different articles from different locations, just not the same one and not have it overwrite the other one you wrote somewhere else. Take that, Blogger!


Now I’m editing the same article on the laptop that I created on the phone! Here, I’ll even throw in a random image of my dog. Look at that! a picture! I wonder if it will stay here when I edit it on the desktop?


Looky there! The photo is still there, and the original post is still there, and I can add stuff on the desktop too! Back to the phone now.


I can log into the editing interface on the mobile version of WordPress, and I can use the edit functions right in Chrome without having to grow/shrink the page to be able to see the buttons. It works much the same way that Mastodon does on a mobile platform. Seamless. No feeling of being in a poorly scaled room, trying to sit in chairs made for the butts of some other species.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the theme to do what I want. I won’t be holding my breath on that score. My batting average when it comes to getting myself comfortable with code is appalling, and I can’t seem to make heads or tails of what themes control and how to change them. Stay tuned.


Why you shouldn’t just willy-nilly create custom blocks and stick them in your articles. At least Gutenberg now distinguishes between varying separator types. That’s a nice step. Or is it the fact I’ve changed the theme again? I’ll have to check that.

The CTRL-Z Blogger Hole

I’ve run across this ctrl-z bug a few times in the Blogger interface and it’s about to drive me nuts. The first time I noticed it I was working on an article that I had published previously, an article that still had some cludgy wording in it I wanted fixed, and I wanted to add a bit of HTML zing! to the post. I had it open in the blogger edit interface, the same old Blogger interface that has been the Blogger interface since the beginning of the world wide web if not the beginning of time as we know it. A white and grey interface with orange buttons? The one that has a toggle in the upper left corner that says “Compose” on one button and “HTML” on the other? Two different shades of grey? You know the one I’m talking about. I had messed up some code I had entered under the “HTML” setting, and after checking the results in “Compose” I hit ctrl-z to undo the change, and the entire post I was editing simply disappeared!

Luckily I could just back out and start over re-editing. It was a pain but at least I could access the original post. This error has happened a few times since then. Every time it has happened, I have had a version of the post that I could go back to, luckily. A frustrating but recoverable error. Until this time.

Today I was working in a test post that I keep hanging around to save snippets of code in, handily named test post. I had just done some tweaking on some code in the HTML interface. I didn’t like the way it looked in the Compose interface, and I stupidly did the same thing again. I can clearly remember thinking “where was that error?” right before discovering the error again. However, this time I had no version to go back to because test post had never been published for more than a few minutes, and since it was currently a draft post the blogger interface helpfully over-wrote my test post, with all those years of HTML coding snippets saved just for this reason, so that I wouldn’t lose them, and it over-wrote that long, ugly mess with a fresh, new, blank post it had created when I hit ctrl-z.

Funny? It did once. Does again

If I had been thinking at the time I might have stopped everything and gone looking. I mean, I know there is an excellent article (from 2009) on recovering deleted posts over on The Original Blogger Tips and Tricks. I first ran across his five points for recovering deleted blog posts last year when the mobile Blogger app helpfully overwrote a published post I just happened to have created in the mobile interface before completing it later on the desktop. When I reopened the mobile version to do what I saw as some quick editing, it opened the stored version of the earlier post, and then wrote that clearly unfinished, earlier work over the published, significantly longer, one. Suggestion four from his list look for a cached version worked like a charm on that occasion, and I was able to just pretend the entire screaming-rage-fit had never happened.

It has views to prove it.

Suggestion number three, go back to a previous version in the same window might have been helpful [was not helpful] had I not [even though I didn’t] rage-quit the window in frustration [this time.] just before [There is no use] going to the blogger forums to complain about the fact that ctrl-z still deletes everything on screen in the edit interface[.] and being helpfully reminded of [T]he Tips and Tricks post by the first thread that mentioned ctrl-z. will not remedy the problem with [ctrl-z] deleted drafts[ and there isn’t anything that other users can say or do that will make me feel less stupid or bring the wasted hours of work back.]

This is an old, old interface error. I know it’s an old and common complaint, because there is a near-endless string of threads on the blogger forum that documents just how old and frustrating this error is. Just enter ctrl-z into the forum search window, and look at all the people who have the same problem, with no good resolution to be offered to them other than to be lectured to about backing up your data. [This is the only viable solution for accidentally deleting drafts aside from not editing drafts in the edit window within the blogger interface. This may seem counterintuitive, but, if you are editing anywhere else in the Google, Apple or Microsoft universe, drafts don’t just magically disappear when you try to undo. There is almost always a copy of your most recent work stored in memory somewhere. Until Google and/or Blogger institute a recycle bin or some other saving system that doesn’t overwrite your latest work upon leaving the interface, this error will have the catastrophic effect is has on unpublished drafts.]

[I think I’ve found out what is causing this problem, but again, the only way to correct it is to reprogram the drafts interface in such a way as to see drafts as not being completely transient temporary files. I have another long draft that I’ve been working on for about a decade now. I opened it to check if I had saved notes to incorporate in the draft, and seeing that I hadn’t; I created a new draft in another window, copied and pasted the notes and saved that new draft. Having not made any changes to the original draft article I deemed it unchanged and told blogger not to save changes. This is the action that gives the location of the error away. I had toggled over to the HTML editor! When I flipped back to Compose, blogger saw that as a completely new file, never in existence before I toggled back to Compose. When I told it not to save changes, it abandoned the file exactly as if I had never wrote and rewrote and compiled and rewrote and recompiled and etcetera, etcetera ad nauseum. New file discarded.

Silly me, I go back to the other drafts tab and close the new file I had created today. It doesn’t prompt me to save. It autosaved already. Data preserved. Hmm, that’s interesting. The search terms that turned up the other file now show the new file is the only one with those terms in it. Surely the interface didn’t…? Yep. It did. The blogger interface deleted ten years worth of angst in a microsecond because the file, as far as the interface was concerned, hadn’t existed until it recompiled the HTML into the WYSIWYG display file. This behavior would be what you would expect if the key combination CTRL-Z were pressed on a new file. There’s only one action to undo. Creation of the file. The WYSIWYG display file is promptly cleared with CTRL-Z when you return to the Compose screen because writing that file was the only action performed. Not allowing the new file to be saved before exiting the editing interface means that the file the interface just created, even though it was a ten year old file before you opened it, is abandoned today. File deleted. Programming error discovered. Will Google/Blogger ever fix it? I’m not screaming mad about it this time because having been burned before I had started making backups. The file is in the backup I made after editing it the last time. At least, I hope it was the last time. Fingers crossed?]

Yes, we understand. We are all but children in the eyes of the internet gods who never commit an error. We are so sorry to have to point this out but sometimes shit just happens. Sometimes you do something that you know is wrong at exactly the instant you do it, but you somehow still do it anyway. We children would really like known bugs to be fixed when they are brought to the attention of the for-profit programmers who work in the giant corporations that can’t help but run our flawed, childlike world. If you aren’t going to fix your errors, why the hell should the rest of us be any different? Why the hell are we relying on you when we could write code at least as well as you do, and do it in our own time? How many years does it take to fix an obvious flaw like ctrl-z blanks the edit window? I’m certain I could duplicate blogger’s interface in less than a decade, and I really don’t have to since I could install WordPress on my own website and learn about all the bugs that are in that interface, just for a nice change of pace.

At least if I’m paying WordPress I’m no longer the product being sold, but the customer being served. Food for thought.

It just happened again. FFS, Google!?! Blogger!?! Wake the fuck up and fix your shit! 10/27/2018 error discovered! Blogger is still broken! January, 2019. Migrated to Wordpress. Goodbye Blogger interface. 

Stuck in Mobile Interface Hell

Mobile apps are so kludgy. Why is it apparently impossible to make a mobile app that can produce content that can dance and sing like  desktop applications do? The Tumblr app will not let blog posts tap the power of the social web by drawing content from other websites and displaying it as it does on the desktop/browser interface.

At least I can access the code with the Tumblr app. The Blogger app cannot give me access to HTML code at all as far as I can tell. Don’t get me started on how the Facebook app can’t let go of content, even when you tell it twice to let go.

Yes, view in browser. No, I mean a real browser. No, I mean Chrome!

Why do I have to argue with Facebook programming on my own phone? The Blogger app can’t find my photos. Tumblr can’t multi-media code unless you can do it all from memory (I can’t) and the Facebook app? Zuckerberg isn’t getting the blogging part of my soul. He already has too much of the rest of it.

This is hell. I want my desktop back. Now please.

Jean-Luc Picard programming binary code from memory
into Data’s severed head in Time’s Arrow (Part 2).
I cannot program on this level, but I do know people who can.

Hey Google! Blogger Interface Needs a Patch!

For the last few weeks I’ve been getting spam comments from Blogger. Yes, that’s right. Blogger is spamming me with comments, if sources for the spam are to be believed. The problem is a little more involved than that.

Blogger Comment Spam

Not only is the self-identified user Blogger spamming me, but the landing page for marking comments from blogger as spam still references the old blogger developers blog that hasn’t been updated since 2013!

Now, I understand. I rejected Google’s G+ comments interface. I post to G+ for blog promotional purposes (as limited as that is, I’ve seen the metrics) and I got tired of seeing my own posts listed as comments on the blog articles. It makes you feel lonely and pathetic when you are the only one posting comments to your blog. Yes, maybe that is because I am lonely and pathetic, but I don’t need reminders from my blog interface to realize this potential fact. So I moved back to the native blogger comments.

If they want me to use G+ as the only commenting form, perhaps they should fix the G+ interface to import old blogger comments properly; as in, not showing the obvious HTML code inline with the comment text. Give me the option of not showing my own posts to G+ as comments on articles. Something. Anything.

But please Google. Please. I’m begging here. Clean up the old Blogger interface? Make links go places that are still in use? Keep clearly proprietary user names reserved for Blogger and Google not to mention Alphabet, the new parent company and all the other companies that Google now Alphabet owns. At the very least, can you kill the spammers account? The fake Blogger? Please?