Guus Bosman

software engineering director

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Guus Bosman.NL


Problems with the website

This might be a little bit of a futile message, but I'm having significant issues with the site's stability. This started after I upgraded a set of packages (yum update) and also did some minor Drupal upgrades. I don't believe it's related to the latter, something seems to be not quite right for php-fpm.

Anyway, it is a good lesson on using AWS's options about backups etc.


A long overdue upgrade

I upgraded my website over the past few weeks, and it's in better shape than it has been in years.

No more server in the attic

The biggest change was moving to Amazon AWS. After many years of hosting a physical server in the Netherlands in my parent's house, I decided to make the switch. Primarily because I wanted to get some hands-on experience with AWS -- I've learned some good things -- but also because the physical server is getting due for a replacement.

Drupal and CiviCRM upgrades

I removed Drupal modules I no longer needed, upgraded CiviCRM to version 5.9, and finally fixed a lot of bugs. Restored the Birthday block, restored the breadcrumbs. Finally, I set up a way to upload images through the browser and have to resized, renamed and sharpened the way I like it. This was something I missed when we were in St Maarten; it was tricky to add photo's to articles.

Server stuff

For my database I now use Amazon RDS -- no more messing around with MariaDB upgrades, and database backups are trivial. I'm using Let's Encrypt for HTTPS certificates and tweaked my favicon settings for Android and Apple products.


I've spent quite a few evenings fixing and patching things. It's very rewarding and I love having my own website and blog. To look back at all the years is awe inspiring. Using Drupal also allows me to track things like my running mileage or books that I've read, all in one place.


Enabling HTTPS

The Chrome browser is now explicitly marking non-https websites as Not Secure, a good step for them to take. A few years ago I was a Usenix Conference where the UX folks for Chrome were discussing their roadmap towards this -- time has flown and now http is officially "no good".

A good nudge for me also... I finally set up a HTTPS cert for my site. I've used a free certificate from; it will expire in a few months but by then I should be fully running on AWS and have the auto-renewal acme scripts in place.


End of Mollom spam protection

A few months ago the system I used to filter out spam, Mollom, was discontinued. I signed up with Mollom pretty early on, and it has been a great tool over the years.

I didn't realize that my website was unable to accept comments until Gerben pointed it out -- thank you! -- and the retirement of Mollom turned out to be the issue.

I just switched to another tool called Honeypot, let's see how well that does, and comments should be working again.


And we're back in business!

A week ago the power supply of our server died and it took part of of the hard disk with it. Jaap did an amazing job -- he bought the new server and using a USB stick with the OpenBSD installation media he set up the new server, including partitions and filesystems.

So now we're on OpenBSD 5.8. In the process I switched to Apache 2.4.16 (instead of the custom build of the old Apache 1.x that OpenBSD used to maintain), and from MySQL to MariaDB. The site is now back up and running, with some minor tweaks to be done. The pink error messages will go away.

# uname -a
OpenBSD 5.8 GENERIC.MP#1236 amd64

Upgrading from OpenBSD 4.9 to 5.4

This weekend I upgraded OpenBSD on the server. I started at version 4.9 and did several upgrades in a row, to end up at version 5.4. Rebooting the server has always been a bit risky, as it would rarely (or never) come back up by itself and I'd have to call Jaap to reboot. We investigated and found out what happened: the server's BIOS would warn that no mouse was attached ("press F1 to continue"), thereby messing up my remote reboots. Attached an old mouse fixed that.

It's a bit embarrassing that my OS is so out-of-date. 4.9 was released in May 2011. Even 5.4 is not the current version yet -- it was released two years ago. I started upgrading to 5.5 when I realized that with the 64 bit timetracking this would not be a trivial upgrade, and certainly not something to try out late Sunday night.


Disclaimer and copyright notice

All content on this site is owned by Guus Bosman. All rights reserved.


Most of the icons on this site are copyright by Guus Bosman. A few exceptions:

- The globe for the "traveling" icon was created by miagyone and released under a (CC BY 3.0) license -
- The typewriter for the "technology" icon was created by Invisiblefaerie1 and released under a (CC BY 3.0) license -


Website redesign 2012

Over the last few weeks I have worked on a new version of this website. The most important goal of my website is to stay in touch with family and friends, but it also serves as an online business card for my work as software engineering manager. And, to be honest, the site was getting a lit bit old and needed a fresh lick of virtual paint. Most importantly, I wanted to make the site work better on mobile phones and on the iPad.

In April I read Ethan Marcotte's Responsive Web Design and that inspired me to work on a new Drupal theme. I based it on Dave Gamache's Skeleton CSS framework and modified it to my needs. This is the first major redesign since March 2007.

The changes

  • Anonymous users now go to a new landing page, instead of going to the blog
  • Logged in users will continue to see the blog as the main page. This way, there is a specific a page that I can tailor for people that don't know me in person, with a focus on my business persona.
  • The HTML is completely HTML5 compliant (I need to take care of 1 last non-validating item, related to the Boost caching mechanism)
  • The layout of the website is now mobile-friendly. You can see the effect by resizing the window of your browser. It gently collapses into a single row of nicely readable text. A couple of smart tricks around the menu (using CSS3 media queries) does the rest.
  • Last but not least, after 12 years I am updating the icons on the site.

New icons

With the new style of the website came the realization that the old icons were, well, old. I created them myself over the years and there wasn't a lot of consistency between them. Moreover, they were created with a size limitations of 32x32 pixels and there's no way to scale them up since I created them as bitmaps.

In my previous job we worked with an off-shore company that creates icons, and for a small fee we got access to a library of many hundreds of thousands of icons. I started looking for something similar and ultimately decided on using, a global job marketplace, to find a contractor. I placed a contract and received 9 bids, of which I selected Hungary based freelancer Zsolt Markus.

He did a great job and recreated many of my icons as vector images, with a good eye for detail. The icons are now on the site, in a 64x64 pixel format, and if I ever want to resize them or tweak them I now have Adobe Illustrator vector files available.

Still to do

There are still a couple of bugs to work out. If you come across any issues, please let me know. Here is a list of things I'm working on:

  • Formatting of top menu on the iPad is not correct (for logged in users)
  • The input field for comments is very small
  • The login form on the /welcome page doesn't work yet.

It was fun to redesign the site, and learn something about HTML5 and CSS3 in the process. If you come across any problems or have any suggestions, please let me know.


My father rocks

Long-time readers know that the server of this website is running in the Netherlands. When we left for the States my parents offered to give the server a place on the attic in Middenmeer.

The server has been running continuously for well over seven years, and doing a great job. But it's starting to show its age -- a scare about a hard disk maybe going bad, and increasingly noisy fans -- so we decided to buy a new one.

The new server arrived without operating system. My father installed and configured OpenBSD earlier this week, so it is now ready for me to install the LAMP stack and some other utilities, and start transferring our websites to the new server. OpenBSD is not for the faint of heart, and it's pretty cool to see it up and running so quickly.

Even enabling the network stack was no problem ("oh, I just did echo dhcp > /etc/hostname.xl0"). Thank you!


Posted on Slashdot

My article was posted on Slashdot!

Friday I wrote about a court ruling in an interesting case, and later that day it was posted on the main page of Slashdot.

Slashdot is a technology-related news website that I've been reading for many years. It's not as influential as it once was, but it's cool nevertheless to see my article linked to from such a big site.

Slashdot is famous for the so-called "Slashdot effect", where a large influx on readers brings down the performance of a website. My site is pretty well configured, and has strong caching for anonymous users, so it dealt with the spike just fine. As of Sunday evening the article has been read about 6,300 times.

I took Friday off from work and we spent a long weekend in DC. Went to the National Gallery of Art, where we saw the exhibition of Gabriel Metsu's work.


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