While Blogger and GitHub now turn on SSL by default, neither support it for custom domains. Some suggested solutions around this are to put an SSL proxy layer between the browser and the above providers, but that breaks the expected end-to-end encryption that the end user expects and allows for MitM attacks. As such, I won’t mention the company that keeps touting this as a real solution.

I eventually came across GitLabs and happily they support SSL not just on their *.gitlabs.io pages, but also for custom domains. Their docs and these blog posts really help to get you started.

Unfortunately, while they do support SSL on all their pages and with custom domains, there does not appear to be a way to enforce SSL on all your pages. This means that if someone comes into your page over HTTP they will not get automatically redirected to your secure page. While this is not a big deal for static content that is not handling sensitive information, it does defeat the purpose of encrypting your page in the first place. Since you can’t put up an .htaccess file or alter the webserver config, you’ll have to perform any SSL enforcement through your HTML/CSS/JS. The JavaScript workaround that I’ve found is to put the following snippet in the head of all my HTML documents.

<script type="text/javascript">
if (window.location.protocol != "https:")
        window.location.protocol = "https";

or as I’ve encapsulated it in my Jekyll based header

{% if site.enforce_ssl %}
<script type="text/javascript">
if (window.location.protocol != "https:")
        window.location.protocol = "https";
{% endif %}

With the above, as long as the browser has JavaScript enabled, then the executed script will redirect them to the SSL version of the page. It’s not perfect, but it’s functional.

Note that in the Jekyll version, I add a bit of configuration logic so that on my local machine, I can test changes without enforcing.

As Formula 1 comes out of its “summer break,” the Telenovela of a race series returns to bore the fans. Here are my 5 ideas that could bring the excitement back to the track.

Nearly all the excitement and intrigue exists off the track while the races themselves seem like parades.  Modern tracks with near infinite run-off areas, flailing attempts at cost cutting, ever changing and inconsistently applied rules, a façade of greenwashing, and the FIA’s inability to manage the sport contribute to dreadfully dull races.  The troll that runs the circus continues be more interested in placating dictators than actually putting on a show.

If F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport with the most advanced machines then we’d get back active suspension, ABS, traction control, and active aero among other things.  Here are my fantasy changes to the sport to mix things up, make the races less predictable, and generally more exciting.  While I’m sure Bernie Ecclestone would love to be able to charge me for the privilege of commenting on Formula 1, I’m going to do the next best thing and give it to him for free.

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Frustration with my home network’s WAN connectivity randomly flapping and being somewhat cheap led me to see if I could get paged without having worry about email relays or paying for your traditional notification service à la PagerDuty (pricey) or VictorOps (unreliable).

The first order of business was to write up a simple script to perform some checks against my home network.  It’s a simple shell script run through cron that maintains a running log of check attempts and results.  Each time it runs, reads the last result, performs new checks, and if the state changed from the previous attempt, then send out an alert.

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Fortune: You would do well in the field of computer technology.
Well, duh!

I received this fortune in a cookie from lunch the other day.

  Lunch was catered Chinese

    in the office of my current employer;

      an Internet technology start-up

        where I stand in front of computer screens

          For large portions of the day.

I manage a team of computer people.

  More often called System Administrators, or

    Network Administrators, or

      Site Reliability Engineers, or

        Site Reliability Operators, or

          IT, Ops, or DevOps*.

Some of my time involves meetings

  with software developers and engineers

    solving software and service architectural problems

      and coming to agreements on how to progress forward.

Sometimes I even write code

  something I’ve been doing since 1983.

    Other times I setup, configure, and maintain

      large scale Internet infrastructures and web services.

        The combination of those two functions has been my profession since 1993.

Over 20 years in this field.

  It doesn’t really seem that long.

    Probably because I’ve done well by it

      And for the most part enjoyed the work very much.

I guess this fortune cookie turned out true

  If maybe a bit after the fact had been well settled.

    Had I received it 30 years ago, though,

      I would’ve just said, “Duh, I’m going to do that anyway.”

* I consider DevOps to be an organizational structure and philosophy focused on development and operational practices. It is not IMHO a job title or position. Using it as such is frequently a sign that someone doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Alcohol content: a wee dram (Macallan Fine Oak 21 Year)

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I’ve spent my life recording numbers to generate graphs to make sense of the world.  The numbers are what’s important, but humans do not really gain comprehension staring at rows and columns of numbers.  The human brain is made for visual processing.  A glance at a well plotted graph can present more value than attempting to read through the millions of data points that made up the graph.  The plot illuminates the data and should allow a reasonable person to intuit meaning.  I’ve probably tossed many kilograms of notebooks filled with data sets and plotted graphs.  Almost no one ever cared about the numbers, just the resulting graphs.

Figures at Work

I’ve used GIFs generated with ancient versions of  GNU Plot  to analyze performance data.  The pain of creating the graphs turned justified when insights were gained from simple visualizations.

File transfer comparisons

File Distribution Efficiencies: cfengine vs. rsync

Certainly, in my line of work pretty pictures help explain what’s going on to a wider audience than the raw numbers.  You can immediately look at a picture and notice when something appears out of the ordinary.

Server CPU Utilization
Maybe we should look at why the CPU load just spiked there.


Elastic Search EPS
Maybe things are happily cycling along.

Other times, I’ve needed to translate the data to justify costs or ways to lower costs.  The following graph helped start a conversation with finance to purchase Amazon AWS Reserved Instances.  A full multi-sheet spreadsheet explaining the financial breakdown was still needed for full justification.  But without this and few other pretty pictures, the discussion and the approval of the up front costs would never have happened.

AWS Instances
How many EC2 Instances are we running?

But that’s just work and part of the expected drudgery of justifying your department’s daily existence.  You do them like annual reviews and power point presentations; get them done to prove your point, then try to get back to real work…  Unless you are a scientist (data or otherwise), in which case, collecting data points and graphing the results might be your real job.

Zen and the Art of Keeping Track of My Car

But even before I ever had to plot a graph in school, I watched my dad keep a small notebook in every car to record the mileage, fuel added, fuel costs, etc.  He’d calculate the MPG since the last fuel stop and record that, and then reset the tripmeter.  He’d also indicate when he’d perform an old change or some other service on the car.  It was a valuable service record for the car.  Noticing a change in MPG could also indicate that something .  I continued the tradition when I started driving my own cars.  And it didn’t take me long to realize there was so much more information in those numbers if I could plot them.

Automotive gas prices clearly cycle over time, but over the years have been trending down in Northern California.  The slight uptick at the end could mean summer prices are coming.  But in this case, it’s more a matter of which town I needed to get gas.

Premium Gas Prices ($/gal) Over Time
Premium Gas Prices ($/gal) Over Time

How’s my driving?  So as I drive more, a higher percentage of my time spent in this car is commuting.  Commuting seems to be so much more fuel efficient than track days and auto-crossing.

Fuel Efficiency (or lack therof)

I’m driving this car a whole lot more now.

Trip-o-meter vs Odometer readings
Trips vs Odometer


Google Sheets Logbook

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Maybe all this tracking, accounting, and graphing is sign of some compulsion on my part.  Certainly when it comes to question of my personal health, I become obsessive about tracking as many variables as possible.  There have been a few times when I’ve been not entirely healthy and the cause was not immediately apparent.  When a doctor or group of doctors become interested in you, life becomes less than pleasant.  On more than one occasion, after months of specialists and testing my body has sorted itself out.  Whatever was wrong resolved itself with no definitive answer for a cause.  The interminable wait between lab results and doctors visits, though, left for too much time for fidgeting and speculation.

Until wearable medical devices came around, I kept log books.  During one of these months long investigative sessions my log filled dozens of composition book pages.  Over three months I documented when symptoms would occur, the severity, duration, what remediation steps were taken, and their efficacy.  One specialist upon reading through my notes suggested I was adding to my general stress levels.  He did not come right out and suggest this additional stress was the cause of my ills, but I suspect that was on his mind.  I won’t discount that possibility entirely.  But sitting around waiting for something to happen and someone else to do something felt worse.

With a wearable, especially one that can track heart rates, the paper log book becomes a bit less necessary.

Resting Pulse over Months
Resting Pulse over Months

There’s still a lot of manual data entry than has to go on, but apps like Apple Health and

My Fitness Pal make it less tedious.  Apple’s Health app has horrible graphing in my opinion and without paying for it, it’s difficult to get all your data out of FitBit.  Using QS Access on the iPhone helps to move the data points into a spreadsheet like Google Apps or Excel where you can manipulate and visualize the data.

Blood Pressure Measurements over Months
Blood Pressure Measurements over Months

I still don’t know what’s going on with my current malady.  At least by recording data points and making graphs I feel like I’m doing something for my treatment while I wait for the next test or visit.

Alcohol content: measurements not recorded

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