Some notes about Digital Ocean servers

I’ve been unhappy with my current website host. My old hosting company, Verio, sold part of its webhosting business (including my websites) to another company. Verio used to provide php by default. The new host does not. I decided to try out another cloud provider, Digital Ocean, to see what they can provide.

I spent a while reviewing their help pages to prepare myself for surprises. I spent enough time on their documents site that they gave me a $10 credit when I set up a new account. Eventually, I set up an account with them and received the credit. Click on the link above to get your own $10 credit. (I’ll get some credit, too.)

Setting up a droplet is just as described in their setup page. It’s almost exactly the same. Digital Ocean provides more machine size options ($320/month and above) for monster machines with dedicated CPUs and/or high RAM requirements. I don’t need that. I want a small Ubuntu machine that I can use to hold the domain names that I have and don’t use.

I like their suggestion to use public/private keys. I did not realize that each machine should use exactly one key pair. I had set up key pairs for Bitbucket, Github and now Digital Ocean. I was unable to log in automatically with the key pair until I replaced the public key with the default public key I created on my machines a long time ago. I still set up a password for the non-root account. I still have to key it in for ‘sudo’ stuff, which is annoying, but login works automatically and well.

I decided to follow their instructions for setting up a server firewall. I’m not familiar with IP tables and Digital Ocean recommends using ufw. I followed their instructions and discovered that new terminal windows were not logging in automatically with ssh. It kept timing out for some reason. I rolled back my ufw changes, but I still had trouble with logins. I sent in a help ticket and received some additional instructions that look like they work. They have so far, so that’s good.

I continued setting up the server. Apache installed without trouble, even though they recommend Nginx. (I don’t know Nginx yet.) I skipped MySQL because I did not need it for a placeholder / testing site. I followed their instructions for installing PHP and … discovered that Ubuntu 16.04 does not have default repositories for PHP5. It has repos for PHP7. I had to add an additional repo for the PHP 5 files. Not a big deal, once I knew what was going on. Finally, I have PHP5 installed on the placeholder site. For a placeholder site, I like it.

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odd power supply issue

My machine crashed again last night. It’s a Mac Pro and is connected to a battery backup that then goes to wall power. Last night, I heard the battery backup emit one beep, then shut everything down connected to it. I was running late and it was the end of the day, so I let it go to review in the morning.

Next morning, I can’t get the tower to boot. I disconnect it from the battery and try again with the same result. I disconnect it from the wall and start a support ticket. A few hours later, support comes by and the machine boots up. Their guess is that the capacitors inside the power supply need to discharge completely to avoid interference in the boot process. I’ve never heard of this before, but I do know that Apple has had capacitor problems in the past. This behavior matches what happened in the summer. Machine failed to start after shutdown. Machine was eventually disconnected from wall power. Machine boots again.

Very strange behavior, but I may be forced to disconnect the power if this keeps happening. I’ll need another machine, but I don’t expect one from work, due to other issues. I’ll figure something out.