Our hosting provider moved site to a new server and broke everything in the process.
Why it was broken wasn’t obvious since all I could get is a 500 server error :-(. After a lot of investigation and dead ends it turned out that the Apache .htaccess file format has changed since I first moved to WordPress. Not something that I would have thought could change, but all the Redirect rules broke this new Apache.
On the other hand I now have a lot more settings to play with.
I got a cheap wireless router a couple of weeks ago to replace our slowly aging/dying ones, mainly to use as access points. So today I tried to set it up. It is a Zyxel NBG-418N v2 for a grand total of 25€. It even has a set of modes to set it to Router, Access Point, etc. Which of course is useful if you actually need that sort of thing. And if you aren’t a network engineer lets just say that those modes are quite different.
I first had the bright idea that instead of unplugging a computer I would just use the iPad. Seemed reasonable and worked, except that switching to Access Point in the web console didn’t seem to do anything. Anything at all, over, and over again. Every time AP was set it would reboot, taking minutes to come back, and then it was still in Router mode. :-(.
So some googling later nothing. I sort of hacked the thing to work using the advanced settings, but it still didn’t work quite right. Especially NAT was active and no way to disable it. I moved it to the place where I actually wanted it and tried again. Nothing, over, and over again.
I unplugged the MacBook from its tangle of cables on the desk and used a cable. Still nothing. Updated the firmware. Nothing. Reset to factory defaults. Nothing. Rebooted it. Nothing. Changed the network settings on the Mac. Nothing. Reset to factory defaults. Nothing. Swore at Zyxel. Googled. Nothing. Turned off WLAN. Nothing. Rebooted. Nothing. It sort of worked. It connected to the LAN and was available on wireless. But still in the half configured mess it was before.
Put the MacBook back in its normal place and connected again to the web console and thought, I wonder if there is something wrong with the web console. Safari on this machine doesn’t have the web developer tools enabled so I started Firefox and connected to the router. I found the page and put a break-point on the script. Sure enough it wasn’t doing anything complicated. Changing the router mode just set a value in a form, and did a script based form-post to the router. Unfortunately when I stepped through the page it timed out. So refresh the page and try again. Only this time since I had refreshed it lost my break-point on the script and when I switched the mode and pressed the Apply button it didn’t pause, but just went straight ahead and rebooted.
Only now when I reconnected it was in Access Point mode. WTF?!, WTF?!?!?
The only difference was switching from Safari (iPad, MacBook) to Firefox. Obviously the Zyxel web console doesn’t work correctly in Safari, but fails silently.
In the immortal words of Russ Hanneman, Fuck you Zyxel. Fuck you in the ass.
iTunes did another one of its seemingly random minor updates again the other day. And today I opened it to watch one of the few podcasts that I use still use it for only to notice that it looked a bit weird.
As it turns out Apple has finally (and this is a real finally) adopted HiDPI support on Windows. From their release notes,
This update is designed for high DPI displays so text and images appear sharper and clearer. It also includes minor app and performance improvements.
I would guess that they got a little push in this direction since iTunes is supposed to be moving to the Windows Store, but it is 2017, and HiDPI has been a thing for over five years. There are complaints about it not scaling correctly above 250%, but this fixes one of the last major desktop apps. Not a minor thing when many laptops come with 4k screens now.
Luckily I always had backups of everything related to the site, which basically means the database and the files/uploads. Every day I get an dump of the database and a copy of all files back from the hosting service to my local server. And from there a versioned backup to our cloud backup provider.
So recovering from the hack meant updating to 4.7.2 and restoring the database from a version of the backup I knew was good. Doing an update for me wipes out any existing installation which is good if it was possible to contaminate them somehow. Then restoring the database from my backups is a single command once I restore the dump back to the hosting service.
It is well over a year since getting a 4k monitor. In that time we have gone from Windows 8 to 10 and a couple of updates. In the end I settled on 150% scaling. So not quite full retina in Mac terms (200%), but actually this is the correct DPI setting for a 32″ 4K monitor. An A4 page at 100% size in Word, for example, really is basically full size (and I can fit multiple on one screen!).
In general for how I am working there have been a few minor improvements in that time. In Windows 10 the switch to HiDPI and scaling has gone forward, but a bit roughly. Of course all the UWP apps (Metro) work out of the box, but app support has been pretty spotty and takes a long time.
Of the apps I use most things like Sublime Text made the jump quite early as had Firefox and Thunderbird. Spotify did eventually, and then most recently Evernote. Lightroom now looks and works mostly ok, nicely scaled UI elements with full resolution images. The laggards now are a handful of older apps that probably never move, anything from Apple, plus of course Steam. Although that just means they are fuzzy, but full sized. Rarely now does an app claim to support scaling and then not do it, resulting in a really tiny window.
The real rough spot from comments online seems to be support for multiple displays at different scaling, or switching displays. But I don’t suffer either of those since this is a desktop PC with a single monitor. Of course that was one of the reasons for getting this display in the first place.
I only noticed this monitor in Verkkokauppa a couple of weeks ago and from all the reviews seemed to be a relatively good monitor at a reasonable price for the size. To my suprise (these things never happen to me) the price fell 100€ the night before I bought it. The bad part was that I actually believed reviews where they said the included DisplayPort cable was crap and to buy a new one. The TL;DR version is that the replacement cable (at 25€) didn’t really work and the one that came with the monitor did. It might be that DisplayPort is a bit twitchy, especially if the cable isn’t seated quite right. But in any case if you have a 4k monitor and the image starts blinking check the connections and try swapping the cable.
All that matters is size
As for the monitor, this thing is huge. And I mean huge and it is also 4k, and it also has an IPS panel. That probably covers the essentials. Over the last few months there are now quite a few 4k monitors in the 24 – 28″ size range, but I was a bit wary of getting one mostly since Windows doesn’t really have the same level of HiDPI/Retina support that the Apple now has, plus many of them are TN panels (worse colour reproduction). I was hoping to get something bigger to even out the scaling vs small UI issues. As it turns out it probably wasn’t as big of a problem as I thought. Not that it matters since a monitor this size with this resolution (3840 x 2160) is pretty much perfect. In the end I am running it with 150% scaling in Windows 8.1 to get something resembling a reasonable size UI. For all intents and purposes I have have a giant Retina quality display without losing the benefit of size. I still fit quite bit more on the desktop than a standard 24 or 27″ screen (1920 x 1080 or 2560 x 1440) resolution. So I am very happy I didn’t settle for something smaller.
Sharp browser text vs. blurry scaled iTunes
The only down side at the moment is the hit and miss support for HiDPI in Windows applications. Things like Firefox and Thunderbird are absolutely perfect, as are most of the Microsoft built in applications. Some however are not (iTunes, Spotify, and Skype for example). Lightroom is sort of HiDPI aware, but it scales some parts a bit strangely (small icons). But the upside is that you get the full resolution for the images, just like on the Mac. An application in Windows has to declare that it understands HiDPI. If it does, then it has to scale its own UI to the DPI setting you select. If it doesn’t then Windows will scale the UI for it. Unfortunately that really does just mean scaling, so instead of getting ultra-crisp text you get fuzzy, blurry text. I’m guessing that the move to Windows 10 and Universal Apps will solve most of this as Metro apps can now run in a window, and are fully HiDPI aware. In the end the traditional desktop apps will just die out. I think Microsoft also has some tweaking to do in the OS itself since when I first installed the monitor Windows decided that I needed 250% DPI scaling and drew huge icons and windows. Obviously the 32″ part never rang any bells. I still haven’t decided if I stick to 150% or go down to 125% still. I think the lower value might be a bit too small though. I prefer the cleaner fonts to tiny ones.
A Raspberry Pi — All the power of a 10 year old desktop in a tiny little box (box not included). And with the added enjoyment of a bare bones Linux desktop. Of course they updated it to be 6x more powerful about a month after I got mine as well.
Of course the real fun starts when you start actually building things with it. And it is already working as a basic photo frame using the TV as a display and serving pictures straight from the Linux server via a smb share.
Nice way to spend an afternoon — scripting WordPress updates. As in all things internet it doesn’t pay to hang back from the bleeding edge too much. At least now I have a clean and easy way of doing the updates myself since the hosting provider seems to block the auto ones still. The joys of shared hosting :-(.