Aside #1 – EC2 WordPress Issues

Whilst I’ve been attempting to learn a new thing each month this year, I’ve been finding it really tricky to keep to the pretty loose schedule. As such, I though I’d try and note down every time a shiny new thing takes my interest, so that I have some idea why I’m incapable of completing a series of blog posts.

EC2 Issues

I’m really having problems with EC2 these days, and I’m constantly being dragged back into finding out what the problem(s) is/are..

Restarts don’t restart

Had to add entries into the rc.local to restart httpd and mysql, and also had to change the permissions on the file to allow it to be executed upon restart (sudo chmod 6755 /etc/rc.d/rc.local).

— because the blog went down a couple of times and I didn’t notice!

Backups kill the site!

WordPress 2 DropBox – killed me. As does mysqldump in general.

DB backup

mysqldump --add-drop-table -u <username> -p <database> | bzip2 -czs > <db backup filename>.bz2

website backup

tar -cjf <site backup filename>.bz2 /var/www

— wordpress kept telling me to upgrade to the latest version, but also had a big MAKE SURE YOU BACKUP FIRST warning; and the WordPress 2 DropBox plugin killed my EC2 microinstance.

WordPress: Alerting on high CPU usage

# Script to check CPU usage and tweet me if it's over a threshold
if [ ` uptime | awk '{ print$10 }' | cut -d. -f1 ` -gt 50 ];
    sudo python /home/ec2-user/tweepy/ '@rposbo LOAD: ' < /tmp/load
    echo lo

This totally doesn’t work! Uptime seems to happily report low CPU usage even when the site is dying. Maybe CPU is low and mem is high.. hmm.. may have to change that check.

— attempting to backup wordpress keeps breaking my site, dammit!

logstash, graphite, statsd

Currently trying to get those three to work together and help me find out why the EC2 microinstance is so.. uh.. micro..

— EC2 just keeps on dying and I need to find out why

Backup Backup Backup

Whilst out at a bar in Camden recently a friend started hunting around our area with an increasingly panic stricken look on his face. Turns out that his personal laptop had been taken from under our seats. Six years of his personal dev work lost.

The response from every technical person he told? Should’ve backed up. Also, you’ve got Prey on there, right?.. no?.. Ah..

Not exactly the most compassionate response, but for those of us with a half decent backup solution all you need worry about is getting the insurance paid out on the hardware itself.

My backup solution is pretty minimal; the only things I care about are photos and videos, documents (work and home), and coding fun.

First up – Cloud


My photos are usually taken on my Samsung Galaxy S3 so exist in several places almost by default. The SG3 is an android device, so my photos are automatically synced up to my google drive using Google Plus Instant Upload.

I have a dropbox account and the android dropbox app so they’re also being synced to dropbox; I have dropbox on my laptops at home and on my work PC, so the photos are downloaded onto those devices too.

I have the Jungledisk agent on all of my PCs which also backup those photos to my jungledisk account. It’s going to be pretty tricky to lose them all.


Documents are handled by both dropbox and Windows Live Mesh; as soon as I close a document on my office PC it’s synced via Live Mesh to SkyDrive and then downloaded again to my home PC.

Again, this is also backed up to Jungledisk as separate PC backups.

Coding fun

This also uses Windows Live Mesh, and Dropbox, and Jungledisk, but the ones I really like are also pushed up to github.

Pricey, right?

The cost of this security? Not much at all.

  • Live Mesh comes with Windows 7.

  • Dropbox is free and if you by a SG3 you get 50GB free for a year, plus 500MB free for every 500MB of photos you backup to dropbox.

  • Jungledisk costs me around £10 a month, which given that I also use it to automatically back up everything in my and my wife’s laptops’ “My Documents” folders to a secure cloud based solution, including all iTunes, iPhoto, etc folders, I think that’s money well spent; obviously some of that is also on iCloud too!

Physical? Sure!

I’m not relying on internet access to get my files back either. I have both local network and USB attached backup solutions.

External HDD

Western Digital My Passport

This tiny 500GB Western Digital Passport attaches to whichever machine I’m working on at the time and constantly backs up my entire D drive (non-OS) securely and with rollback capabilities.


LaCie LaCinema

I also have everything in key folders on each laptop within my home network being copied over to a 1TB LaCie LaCinema HD HDMI Media Centre/NAS, which is an amazing bit of kit in its own right. You can now get a 2TB version for about £160.

It Works For Me ©

I’m not saying this is what everyone should do, as requirements will obviously differ. But this works for me, and the last time one of my laptops crashed and burned I was quite happy at the chance to get a shiny new one, not having lost any important data at all.


No need to back up any applications since it’s so easy to rebuild an entire Windows system using things like Chocolatey, WebPi, and Ninite.

Find of the day:

Making and hosting a website has never been easier, thanks to the likes of AppHarbor, heroku, and github pages. Now there’s a new contender on the block and it’s possibly even easier to use that the others; if you don’t do dynamic content and just want a static website, check out

This site takes your dropbox account (if you don’t know what dropbox is, head over to their site and watch the “What is Dropbox” video; essentially it’s distributed online file storage) and uses a folder (which it creates) as the root for your website.


site44 homepage

Just follow those steps and you’ll find a new folder appear in your local Dropbox folder:

site44 autogenerated dropbox folder

In there you’ll find a new index.html page with the default content:

site44 autogenerated homepage

Open that file locally, edit it, save it, give Dropbox a second to sync it back up and:

site44 gordons alive



Think I might do a compare and contrast with Appharbor, github pages, and site44 at some point. The world is a clever place.

Scripting the setup of a developer PC, Part 1 of 4 – Installing Applications & Utilities with Ninite

Setting up a development PC can be a bit of a pain, unless you’re smart and create an image following the setup of a brand new vanilla install. But who’s organised enough to do that?! I’ll get onto that option in another post, but this one is more an excuse to play with interesting stuff.

I thought I’d have a play with coding up a set of scripts to do as much of this setup as possible instead; there are a few tools out there to do this sort of thing, and I’ve gone with ninite, webpi, and chocolatey.


I’ll start with the intended ideal option for each tool, and then go into how this doesn’t work perfectly and why, and what the other options are. Part 1 of this series of 4 is for the easiest tool of all:


Installing Applications & Utilities: ninite

This site allows you to create a single exe installer which contains your own selection of a large number of applications/frameworks/utilities:


For an ASP.Net developer PC I’ve gone with Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox, Skype, VLC, Flash, Air, Java, Silverlight, Launchy, 7-Zip, WinSCP, PuTTY, Notepad++, WinMerge, Paint.NET, PDFCreator, Reader, DropBox, and Everything Search for my installer. This installer can be called from the command line but the basic version still opens a graphical interface; however no interaction is required. The Pro version comes with a command line installer, but I’ll not be using that.

Ninite Pro is absolutely awesome: you can remotely manage installed software and software patches within your network with a silent install process.



So far my install script set looks like this; pretty bare:

[batch]@echo off
REM Ninite stuff
cmd /C Z:\Installation\SetupDevPC\Ninite_DevPC_Utils.exe[/batch]

And the installation directory is merely one script and one exe:


That was dead simple! Lovely! Coming up next – something a bit messier:

Scripting the setup of a developer PC, Part 2 of 4 – Installing Frameworks and Components with WebPI.