Tag Archives: hosting

SSL for hosted Micro.blog sites

Micro.blog’s business model is pretty simple. If you want Micro.blog to host a new microblog for you, or use the Twitter cross-posting with an existing site, there’s a small monthly subscription. We want Micro.blog to be the easiest way to start a blog.

Included in all Micro.blog-hosted microblogs is support for custom domain names, so that you can map yourname.com to your blog. While we’ve always supported SSL for the default yourname.micro.blog hostnames, custom domains need their own SSL certificate. Managing SSL certificates is a hassle, and until recently, also expensive.

I’m happy to announce that we are now rolling out free SSL hosting for custom domains, powered by Let’s Encrypt. While it’s not fully automated yet, we’ve already started enabling these for customers as requested. If you have a Micro.blog-hosted blog with a custom domain, email help@micro.blog and we’ll enable SSL on your site.

There are more features coming for hosted blogs leading up to the public launch of Micro.blog. Don’t forget to sign up on the launch announce list.

DNS consolidation

Feels like years in the making, but I’ve finally moved all my domain names to a single provider: DNSimple. The last 3 domains went through toward the end of 2015. They were .io domains, and required calling Network Solutions to unlock. (I own 13 domains, and don’t plan to add any more for a very long time.)

I’ve found that the simplicity of having these kind of things consolidated in one place really improves keeping up with hosting and renewals. It’s the same reason I moved all my private projects to GitHub, even though it would cost more per month. It means less to worry about, so more time for coding.

Since I’ve often been thinking about the lack of permanence on the web, I also want to be more proactive about extending my domain registrations. I renewed manton.org until 2021.

If you’re interested in using DNSimple, use this referral link for a month free. All my SSL certificates are there too, although I’m keeping an eye on Let’s Encrypt.

The Future Library

The Future Library project will collect writing to be locked away and published for the first time in 100 years:

“Each year, the Future Library trust, made up of literary experts – and Paterson, while she’s alive – will name another ‘outstanding’ writer who will be contributing to the artwork. The trust is also responsible for the maintenance of the forest, and for ensuring the books are printed in a century’s time. A printing press will be placed in the library to make sure those in charge in 2114 have the capability of printing books on paper.”

Love this idea. Although for a different goal, I think we need a similar set of trusts to maintain electronic publishing. Domain names and hosting are much more fragile than the paper Margaret Atwood will print her story on for this project.

Mlkshk mirror

Last week, in my post about mirroring content, I said:

“When we get into the groove of using a new service for a few years, it’s easy to forget that web sites don’t have a very good track record.”

Now we find out that Mlkshk is shutting down. They are working with the Internet Archive to make sure the content is preserved, and they might still find a buyer for the whole service, but as things stand it’s likely that every link to Mlkshk-hosted images will break in September.

Mlkshk hasn’t been on my radar lately, but it was widely used enough a couple years ago that I added support for its image thumbnails to Tweet Library. I hope they can at least find a solution to keep mlkshk.com working as a static site.

17 services for hosting and business

While doing our taxes this month, I was a little surprised just how much I spend for various web apps and services to help run Riverfold. While I could trim some of them, most are essential and save a lot of time. I thought it would be interesting to write up some of the most important ones.

Linode: I’ve moved nearly everything to Linode. I like their style: just basic, solid hosting, with good features but not an overwhelming number of services or fancy stuff. They’ve recently increased their RAM and added SSD. I have servers there for Nginx/Unicorn, MySQL, Redis, and Elasticsearch. I also use their load balancer and Longview stats app. This link uses my referral code.

Amazon Web Services: I no longer use EC2, but I have some DNS hosted in Amazon’s Route 53. I also use S3 for backups and a new feature that’s coming to Sunlit soon.

Heroku: Before moving to Linode, most of my stuff was on Heroku. Now I only have one small app and database there, and I’ll be completely moved off by the end of the year. I’m including it here for completeness only. It’s a great option to get started if you don’t want to be a part-time system administrator, but I think Marco sums up nicely why you want to use Linux servers instead.

Stripe: Can’t say enough good things about Stripe. Watermark, Searchpath, Tweet Marker, and Core Intuition Jobs all use it for credit card processing. It’s the best.

Gauges: As much as I always loved Mint, as my business grew to several web apps and web sites, I looked for a new stats package that could support any number of sites, and which would work better across hosts, since I don’t need to run the database. I’ve been very happy with this.

AppFigures: I’ve used this for years to track Tweet Library sales. It’s great. I also like that I can enter other people’s popular apps and get an idea of how they’re trending if they make it to the top lists.

Blinksale: Kind of an ancient invoicing app that hasn’t changed at all in years, but it works so I keep using it. Originally started by the folks who would go on to do Gowalla.

Beanstalk: I moved the source for all my Riverfold projects here because it can do Subversion and Git well. I sometimes wonder if I should move to GitHub instead, since I do use GitHub and have a couple tiny public repositories there, but I like that Beanstalk is focused only on private hosting. No social; just a well-designed web app.

Postmark: Run by the same team as Beanstalk. I switched to this after Sendgrid had some PR problems you may remember. Email receipts and whatnot go through Postmark now.

Dreamhost: Still using this for email and a few static or PHP sites. It’s cheap and works well. Not much benefit in moving away from it, though I prefer my more important web apps to be hosted on Linode.

DNSimple: I have a few domains here and hope to have all of them moved over eventually. I want to have a single place for DNS. Right now I have registration and DNS hosting spread across Dreamhost, Amazon, and Network Solutions. Makes it difficult to remember where everything is and to keep track of expirations.

Buffer: This company has been on my radar since someone asked me to support it in Tweet Library. They also have a really interesting blog where they share revenue, salaries, subscribers, web traffic, and other usually private details from a company. I admire that a lot. Daniel and I use it to automate sending Core Intuition Jobs links to Twitter, App.net, and Facebook.

Mapbox: We use Mapbox throughout Sunlit. I wrote more about why here.

FogBugz: In the past I’ve build my own bug tracker, used Jira, Redmine, GitHub issues, and others I’m forgetting. They all have problems so for Riverfold I keep it simple with hosted FogBugz. To complement this I use OmniFocus for non-bug tasks.

Zendesk: For too long I was just using Apple’s Mail.app to handle support email. Now support email goes to Zendesk, where I can better track and reply to it. The downside is I’ve had a couple cases of people not seeing the replies, possibly because the HTML email is more often flagged as spam. Need to investigate whether I can switch it to plaintext, but otherwise I’m happy.

Keen.io: I was inspired to try this after reading Justin’s post on analytics. I’m experimenting with it to get better insight into how people are using my apps. So far so good.

Tapstream: Just started using this to help track Twitter ads and other links, to see what marketing actually converts to App Store sales. The web app is good, they responded to a support question the same day, and I love that the SDK is just a handful of .m files that can be dropped into an iOS project.

And that’s it. I may have left a few things out (like consumer-focused apps Dropbox, App.net, and Twitter), but these certainly cover the major services I use now. In the old days it was common to just have one server that did everything. Now there are so many specialized services. While it seems like a lot to manage, each one does a much better job than I could do with a home-grown solution.

Update 9/16/2016: I still like all of these services, but since originally written I’ve consolidated Beanstalk and FogBugz to GitHub; Postmark to Mailchimp; and stopped using Gauges, Keen, and Tapstream.

Tweet Marker new subscriber plan

The original goal for Tweet Marker Plus was to help cover the hosting costs for Tweet Marker. It succeeded for a little while, but it also ended up evolving into a larger independent service: Watermark, with much higher hosting costs for archiving and search, and a bunch of new features like App.net support, Dropbox sync, saved collections, and more. I’m really excited about the future of Watermark.

I also hear from Tweet Marker users who don’t need Watermark. They still want to support Tweet Marker, though, to make sure it continues running and that it’s as fast as possible.

So today I’m introducing a separate, inexpensive subscription option for Tweet Marker. Just $1/month! You can subscribe from the new Tweet Marker home page. And as a bonus you’ll get the first official Safari extension for Tweet Marker, shown in this screenshot:

Tweet Marker extension

Instagram and hosting

I love reading about how big sites use Amazon EC2. If “this post from Instagram”:http://instagram-engineering.tumblr.com/post/13649370142/what-powers-instagram-hundreds-of-instances-dozens-of is still accurate, they must be at something like $50k/month in hosting costs. Their user base has doubled in the 4 months since they posted that.

My setup for Tweet Marker is trivial by comparison, but to me — without Instagram’s $7 million in funding — it’s a very big deal. What I wrote “back in October”:http://www.manton.org/2011/10/redisonly_migration.html about moving to Redis is still mostly true, although I’ve added MySQL and Sphinx to the mix. I now run with 3 Amazon EC2 “medium” instances and have 5 web dynos (with 3 Unicorn processes each) at Heroku.

I put everything from donations back into the servers. For Tweet Marker to work, it had to be rock solid. It had to scale. It’s only the first week for “Tweet Marker Plus”:http://tweetmarker.net/plus subscriptions, but already I have a good feeling that it’ll all pay off.