On being root

Recently, my last friend who was still a student at MIT in the PHD program graduated and so I had to find a new home for oroup.com. What I’d always really wanted was my own box hosted at a colo where I could play around at will, install bizarre software, and so on. I’d previously priced this out a few times but the costs were always prohibitive, easily several hundred per month after the purchase price of the box itself. Boy how times have changed.
Rimuhosting offers you “root” on your own box and a static IP address for $19.95 a month. Of course, it’s not really your own box, it just feels that way. In reality, the magic of Xen, I run happily in my own little slice of a larger machine, happily unaware of who I share the box with or what they’re doing. They price by RAM. $19.95 only gets you 96MB of RAM which probably won’t get me as far as I’d like but still it’s pretty amazing.
Suddenly, new things seem possible. I’d always resisted using something like blogger.com or MSN Spaces for a bunch of reasons:

  1. Probably the key issue is I just don’t like the URL. I realized early on that setting my email address to a domain name I hosted meant I could swap out the underlying email provider whenever I wanted. While my friends send out notices announcing their move from hotmail to yahoo to gmail, I have had the same email address for almost 10 years and never plan to change it. (Spam issues notwithstanding.) The same should be true for your blog.
  2. At the end of the day, it’s my data. Google seems pretty enlightened at this point with respect to not trying to lock you in. Any email sent to my gmail account lands in my “real” inbox automatically without me having to log into their website. Still, you just never know how that’s going to evolve in the future. Sourceforge seemed pretty enlightened in this regard too and has gotten somewhat less so. If the data sits on my box, I know I can get to it.
  3. I want flexibility. Blogger will let you turn features on and off but they’re never going to use a search engine other than Google. MSN Spaces is always going to be pushing Live Search. Neither of them are ever going to connect to Flickr. It’s my site and I should be able to build it as I want. Sure, I’m unlikely to ever start writing my own PHP plugins but I want the flexibility to install what I want.

I tried to do a little comparison shopping of blog software and landed at this chart. It’s still basically too much information to grok but the author ended up going with WordPress, I’ve seen a bunch of WordPress sites around and the list of plugins seemed impressive. The only downside was that it requires MySQL. My impression has always been that PostgreSQL is a real database and MySQL is a toy, but that impression may be dated and at the end of the day it wasn’t that important to me. So WordPress it is.
Welcome to the new blog.