Reclaim Hosting Back on Cloudflare

As you can tell from my last post, I tend to use this blog as a testing ground for many other things. Such as the role of  avant garde when switching back and forth between services like Edgeport and Cloudflare. I was able to put both bavatuesdays and reclaimhosting.com back on Cloudflare’s load balancing setup fairly easily this afternoon, but I did run into one issue when reverting www.reclaimhosting.com back to Cloudflare that we ran into when bringing www.macalester.edu onto this multi-region, load-balanced setup in Cloudflare.

After switching DNS back to Cloudflare we got a SSL related Cipher Mismatch error, which according to Chris Blankenship (our sysadmin godhead) is caused by Cloudflare having SSL between the origins and the load balancer, but not between you and the load balancer. I got this error when moving www.reclaimhosting.com back onto Cloudflare’s load balancer. It ultimately resolved in about 5 or 6 minutes, but if this is for a client you probably want to spend the $10 for the advanced certificate to avoid any downtime at all.  Luckily this was not our first rodeo so we knew it would resolve, but wanted to make a note here of this error given I will forget as soon as I click publish. So anyway, www.reclaimhosting.com is back to a ,multi-region setup load balanced through Cloudflare, and now I want to see if we continue to have any editing issues as we have over the last couple of weeks.

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Bringing the Bava back to Cloudflare

I was experiencing some weirdness with the editor of my blog this weekend. In particular, the link option was gone from the classic editor and I was unable to access the media library. Two pretty large obstacles to writing a post on this blog. I pretty quickly figured out the Edgeport plugin was causing an issue with the wp-link element in the classic editor, so deactivating Edgeport fixed that, but the media library was still not showing up no matter what plugins I deactivated.

I was at a loss, but given the Edgeport plugin was causing those issues, I began wondering if there was some wonkiness with Edgeport more generally, so I decided to quickly switch my blog back to Cloudflare for load balancing and the CDN. Luckily I still had the load balancing settings for the multi-region saved, so the process was pretty simple. Interestingly enough, we’ve been having some similar wonkiness on www.reclaimhosting.com, so I’m going to switch that back from Edgeport to Cloudflare for the time being and see if that takes care of some of the issues we’ve been having with editing, particularly in Elementor—which is a beast all by itself, and I rue the day we ever got in bed with that plugin.

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Windows 98 Woes

It’s been a while since I’ve graced the bava with a few keystrokes, but between travel and my retro-computing mishaps, it’s been a hard road back. The travel was awesome, the building out my Windows 98 computer not so much. I’ve been knocking away at this for quite a few months, and after traveling I’ve forgotten more than I remember, so here’s an attempt to capture some of it because as of now the machine is not loading outside safe mode, so I’m in for some Windows pain in the coming days, weeks, months.

OK, a little context here, back in 2018 I picked up a Windows 98 tower as I was preparing for the 90s computer workstation installation at the OWLTEH Conference in Coventry back in the Fall of 2018. I also bought another 90s era computer in Coventry, England for the actual installation, but traveling with a tower was prohibitive, so someone at that conference must have taken that home. Anyway, as I started moving stuff out of the bava basement and into the bavastudio, the Windows 98 machine was one of the first things I wanted to play with. It’s a fun computer with tons of dos games, and a host of ROMs for both MAME and Genesis emulators (the Paperboy port for Genesis is amazing), and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Whoever sold it was basically thinking of this as a retro gaming machine, and it definitely fits that bill.

But I wanted to do more, I wanted to hook this computer up to the internet, update the CD-Rom drive, get my external iOmega drives working, etc. If I only had left well enough alone!

The motherboard for this machine is a MSI MS 6195 ir3, and it has an AMD 750 chipset with 200 MHz. So relatively fast for the time, and from what I can tell without checking the details I believe it has a fair amount of RAM, but will need to confirm just how much when I take this board apart, because as of now I can’t get it to load outside of safe mode 🙁

Here is the tale of the tape:

  • First major intervention was to add a 3Com ethernet PCI card to the machine to connect the computer to the internet. I wanted to play around with some of the Protoweb stuff Taylor Jadin turned me on to. The Internet Archive proved invaluable for finding copies of old installation software.* This installation was definitely not straightforward (nothing on these old Windows machines is), but after some head banging I got this working using a combination of UltraISO file burning and Daemon Tools to virtualize a CD drive with a copy of the Windows 98 2nd Edition ISO—which seems to be mandatory for just about everything you do on Windows 98. NB: I found the Windows 98 2nd Edition disc on the Internet Archive as well!
  • On boot-up there were a few errors with .vxd extensions after getting the 3COM etherlink card installed, such as dfx.vxd. The computer still loaded fine, but I had to enter through those warnings. After a quick search I found this post that helped to get rid of most of them by reinstalling the Client for Microsoft Networks—how satisfying to find a relatively easy fix.
  • The next bit was trying to get my iOmega drives working. I bought a new male–>femal serial cable and power adapter given mine were long gone. Initially I thought all was good given the disk drive powered on, but when I tried plugging both my old iOmega drives into the serial port neither were recognized. I even bought a third online that was working to confirm, but there is something amiss with the serial port on this motherboard for sure, so I need to figure that out, or not given the next issue.
  • Moving on, for a bit now the installed CD-ROM has been acting strangely, recognizing some discs immediately, but then later on balking for those same discs that previously worked. Also, it would sometimes freeze the computer forcing a hard restart. But yesterday things got even worse after I inserted Blondie’s Parallel Lines CD into the drive, the CD-ROM just stopped responding altogether. It was a fairly cheap CD-ROM as I could tell, and there was no way to manually force open the door, so I removed the existing CD-ROM and replaced it with an ASUS model I’d been carting around with me since 2003 or so. I was pretty fired up when I saw the CD light went on (it was powering up) and the trap door opened, but that was all that worked. Turns out the CD-ROM drive was not being properly read and somehow the boot-up process was borked, and the computer only loads in safe mode. When loading the computer it quickly notes “Pri Master ..Not Detected” and “Sec Slave…Not Detected.” I think this means the primary master disk and the secondary slave disk are not being found, whereas the “Pri Slave…IDE Hard Disk” and “Sec Master..ATAPI CDROM” are being detected. So, something with the boot process got all messed up when I added the new CD-ROM, which is not discoverable in Safe Mode, so I have no clean way of running the panacea that is the Windows 98 2nd Edition disc. I think next step is exploring the BIOS or just deleting the IDE controller and rebooting…who knows?

And that is where I stand right now. I know this is more than anyone wanted to know, but I have to get this stuff recorded if I’m ever going to find my way back out of this Windows hell. The irony of all this is I have a stream at 10 AM today to show off my setup and get my computer on the Protoweb browser with Taylor, but at this rate that is just not gonna happen as planned. Woe is Windows 98.

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*It’s worth noting here that in order to get the 3Com Ethernet Link working I had to wrap my head around ISO disks, and the best tools I found were UltraISO to burn the disk and then the Daemon Toolset to create/mount a virtual CD drive. I am trying to remember what version I installed, or what forum I got this from, but I am blanking, that said the following video was what got me started with UltraISO:

Posted in bavastudio, YouTube | 2 Comments

Altec Lansing ACS 45.1

Back in 1997 I took out a personal loan from the UCLA Credit Union to acquire my first computer: a glorious Quantex Intel Pentium II with 64 MB of RAM. Playing games on Windows 95 had become part of my day job at Audio Visual Services, and when I finally left to attend grad school in New York City, I knew I needed to have my own PC. It cost over $3500 (7x the quarterly tuition at UCLA the time—or almost two years ), and I think I paid about $39 per month for five years. The future ain’t cheap, but at the time it was pretty much the best you could do spec-wise  in terms of a home computer at the time, and Quantex was know for their solid machines and amazing customer support. They eventually folded in 1999 when a key supplier supplier went under (the crazy days of the dot.com bubble).

The “legendary” Altec lansing 45.1 speakers and subwoofer

I loved that computer, I had my own little nook for it in my apartment in Kensington, Brooklyn, and the only thing left of that machine is the sound system. The computer included an Altec Lansing ACS 45.1, which consisted of two cube speakers and a subwoofer that may have been the best thing of this pretty bitchin’ machine. I always thought I had an inflated sense of how good the speakers sounded, but apparently I’m far from alone. The product reviews on ebay are even more hyperbolic than I tend to be:

5 stars: by morrisoninventions Aug 14, 2019

Small size, big accurate clean sound.

Absolutely love the sound and convenience of these speakers + amp + subwoofer. I own 3, and am planning to buy a 4th. (Unfortunately, they are obsolete I think, so I have to track ’em down on Ebay.

5 Stars: by mad_d8n Sep 27, 2022

PC Speaker.

The best computer speakers that I have ever experienced through PC game play, streaming and music.

5 stars by crafty457 Oct 27, 2015

Great sounding old speakers

These things rock!!! I just bought them to replace the ACS45 that I’ve been using for the about past 20 years. I’m a musician, so these speakers see daily use, mostly for listening and learning music. Nice clean and clear sound… subwoofer is tight sounding without any annoying boominess. I have them on a shelf at ear level just above my desk. Very musical sounding

5 stars: by itaduc Dec 28, 2016

Great Sound

Best computer speakers ever made along with Altec’s model ASC 48 that are basically the same.

In fact, when searching for them online now you often find adjectives like “legendary” or “classic” to emphasize just how amazing these speakers, were, are, and will continue to be if you are lucky enough to have them working, which I was when I started this post (more on that in a bit).

Power and Volume control buttons on Altec Lansing ACS 45.1 Speaker

The speakers and subwoofer worked just fine, but the connection between one of the speakers and the subwoofer—which also houses the circuit board and power—seemed to come lose and it effected turning the system off and changing volume. You see on this system one of the speakers is used to both turn on/off power (press both buttons simultaneously) as well as for controlling the volume levels by using each of the buttons separately.

Back of Altec Lansing ACS 45.1 subwoofer

So I figured I would just open up the subwoofer and look for any glaring issue on the circuit board, and maybe re-solder the pin connecting the speaker to the subwoofer. Best laid plans of bava and men! I opened up the subwoofer and poked around, but everything looked really clean, what’s more, the contact points for the speaker’s remote volume and power controls were further protected by another layer of plastic that made it hard to get at. I should have stopped while I was ahead, no doubt. But I proceeded to take the entire thing apart, and that’s were I went very wrong. After re-assembling the subwoofer the speakers still worked, but the subwoofer was not subwoofing. “Leave well enough alone, Jimmy!”

Removing circuit board from Altec Lansing ACS 45.1 subwoofer

So, I took it apart yet again and took off the black protective casing around the inputs for the subwoofer, and after re-assembling nothing worked, so I was 2 for 2 in the fixless department. Another example of where I need a logic probe and new a set of tools so I can actually work on these electronics rather than randomly breaking them. I have another set of the speakers  already on order from Ebay in the US, and will be doing some comparative analysis given there are very few videos about fixing this subwoofer, and I’ll also use the subwoofer card as a test for my new logic probe (assuming I can find the proper schematic).

What annoys me the most is that I didn’t even solder anything, or getting particularly invasive. I am pretty sure the fix is quite simple, but alas the limits of my knowledge are really starting to bug me, time to go search for what an affordable logic probe tool to atone for my sins of ignorance.

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bavacade Updates: Moving the fleet to bavastudio, Millipede Monitor Woes, a Rogue K4600, and Phoenix Board Weirdness

Nothing gold can stay.

Those good old days of arcade perfection are long behind me now, and that became readily apparent as I prepared another 11 games for the move over to bavastudio.

Wave two of games to be moved to bavastudio

The most concerning issue is what seems to be the death of Millipede‘s Matsushita TM-202 monitor chassis. I had read that this is considered to be the worst chassis ever made, but for a good couple of years Millipede was looking solid. That said, after moving it up from the basement to the foyer on Thursday, the game only plays blind.

Millipede Black Screen

There is power to the chassis (often apparent if the neck tube glows), and oddly the image did come back once or twice intermittently, but definitely more dead than alive. Many folks on the arcade forums just recommend throwing the chassis away, or parting it out. But I happen to have a cap kit lying around, so I may try to repair this monitor—-making it the first project for the bavastudio location. I have even read some who have said the picture quality gets even worse after a cap kit on this chassis, and all logic suggests this is a colossal waste of time. Nonetheless, hope springs eternal and my soldering skills are still basic, so if nothing else they will get some much needed practice.

Matsushita Chassis Parts List

Plus, the even scarier alternative of scrapping the chassis means I will have to refit the tube for another chassis (I have an extra G07 and K4900 hanging around), but from what I understand that process requires an entirely different level of skill. We’ll see….

On top of that, I was experimenting with doing an entire monitor swap between my Centuri Challenger and a Centuri Phoenix given the latter’s monitor is a bit dull, and I wanted that game to pop in bavastudio—it being a personal favorite. My exuberant initiative, as is often the case, led to more issues than solutions and the Challenger‘s K4600 monitor started acting up when I tested it on Phoenix (thankfully I did not do a full monitor swap before testing). I’m going to have to look at that chassis more closely, but luckily that game is not slated for the bavastudio just yet, so I have time.

Finally, I spent much of yesterday trying to figure out why my Phoenix game board is starting to occasionally throw garbage, and even when it’s working there are specific audio issues when firing at the those fierce alien birds, as well as when they destroy your ship.  The shots are too bass-like, and the explosion sound is partially interrupted. I tried to highlight the sound issues in the video below:

This post on KLOV pointed to a similar issue and recommended a possible fix on Mike’s Arcade site.* He soldered cold joints at cap 34 and resistor 67 on the game board, and then replaced chip IC 45 (a 4006) altogether, but I’m a bit confused given IC 45 seems to be a ROM chip, which is not a 4006 version? Anyway, I re-soldered the resistor and capacitor, but I did not feel comfortable replacing the ROM chip. I need to get a logic probe and up my game for tracking these issues down, because I’m pretty much shooting in the dark with these forum posts at this point. They can been helpful, but like anything as complex as these boards, you really need to begin by tracing the issue yourself, otherwise you’re flying blind.

Centuri Phoenix Logic Board

Another thing I struggled with on the Phoenix board was getting a sense of whether the issue might be related to the high score save kit I installed a while back. I had a similar throwing of garbage back then, and my hacky fix to a broken chip legs may have been coming back to haunt me.  Turns out, in the exploratory process, I broke two more legs on IC 48, so I decided to call it a day, and settled for the game working normally with some sound issues, and the high score names and numbers having stranger characters. I’m going to see if I can get a logic probe soon, and learn how to use it on this board to figure out what happened. I have a rough idea of the issues at hand, and I just need to learn how to literally trace the problems on the board, so I am going to setup a full blown arcade repair corner in the bavastudio for sure.

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*I love the way he organizes all his fixes for each of his games. I have much of this buried in this blog, but a more methodical approach is most useful for others looking on the web.

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Aggressive Technologies is Overvalued

A couple of weeks ago Paul Bond and I caught up with Martha “Sinclair” Burtis to do a playful skit around the fictional company Aggressive Technologies that the students in ds106.ai not only created, but have also been running with. The idea was that Paul and I would be chatting about the class and some of the undergirding financials of Aggressive Technologies, calling into question their valuation, arguing they are essentially riding on the irresponsible AI hype of this bull market bubble in order to manipulate their share prices.

It is at this point the company’s very aggressive legal representative, Martha Sinclair, barges in on our chat to essentially issue the most colorful cease and desist order you may ever hear. It is so fun to do this stupid stuff, and I love that Martha and Paul are still up for the insanity. It has been a very on and off semester for me given my own issues, but this kinda fun reminds me what I am missing. #4life.

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100 Years of EdTech

I was more than a little envious of all the great folks enjoying the OER24 conference on the ground in Cork last week. It looked like an absolutely smashing event, and as I blogged last year, it’s definitely my favorite non-Reclaim event—how about that qualifier! Meredith Huffman and Maren Deepwell were doing Reclaim proud on the ground, and it seems like Alan Levine got Gasta-ed, a 5-minute baptism by fire. By all accounts both keynotes were brilliant, and I got a pretty good sense of things following along on Mastodon (this bava got federated).

But possibly the single biggest element of this year’s event was the celebration of Martin Weller’s 30 years in edtech. He’s written the books; he has blogged the posts; alongside Maren he was instrumental making the OER conference what it is today; and he’s been steering GOGN for over a decade alongside all the other penguins.

GOGN Penguins saving pedagogy during the Pandemic

In many ways this event marks the closing of a chapter in Martin’s role in edtech as he retires from the Open University, steps down as lead of the GOGN research group, discontinues his lucrative and wildly popular 25/30 years of Edtech franchise, and even let’s his blog….nope, he is not allowed to stop blogging. Martin has been a huge inspiration and influence on many folks over the last 30 years, and I come in around the 20 year mark of his journey when we both started blogging in order to link pop culture to edtech in sometimes a fairly shoe-horned manner—he has since become the king of the edtech metaphor.

Martin Weller’s Metaphors of Ed Tech

Martin’s post “Follow the Biscuits” bemoaning his less than ceremonious institutional send-off struck me as all too familiar, and his noting how damaging that is to an already fragile higher ed morale hits the nail on the head. In fact, so much of his blogging has done just that over the last twenty years, and his work has helped me understand the limits and possibilities of our field with a playful, human, and always intelligent take on the challenges we face.

When Brian Lamb and I were driving up the West coast of the United States last year, he noted just how unique a space Martin has been able to carve out in our field through his blog, books, and various other endeavors. It’s not too often you get so many volunteers lining up to read and comment on chapters of your latest book (see the 25 Years of EdTech franchise referenced above). I joke about Martin’s work, but that’s only because I am jealous of how well he has been able to both see and communicate the unique struggles facing the field of open education—he’s a believer, but he is also very practical about what that means to the wider world which makes him an amazing translator and ambassador.

Martin Weller’s The Battle for Open —documenting the MOOC years and more

I’m not sure what the next 75 years of edtech will bring, but I think that part of it will be driven by the open, playful spirit of Weller’s stand-out work. Maybe he’ll just write pulp horror novels from here on out (which is probably necessary after the work he has put in), but I do know that his commitment over the last 30 years has resulted in one of the few voices that was able to so succinctly articulate a moment. The fact that the OER24 conference ended with a standing ovation for his contributions was probably the thing I missed most; I really wanted to stand up alongside a group of fellow travelers and clap for everything he has given us over the years. Thanks Martin, you’re the metaphor maker that keeps on giving!

Posted in Instructional Technology, OER23, OER24, open education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

That Mathers Aesthetic!

The great Maren Deepwell (who Reclaim Hosting has been lucky enough to work with after her long stint as ALTs brilliant CEO) has created a visual anthology celebrating 10 years of Reclaim’s art. It’s a very cool video, and I highly recommend you partake in the celebration 🙂

I’m really proud of the brand we’ve been able to forge over the last decade. Trying to make a relatively boring product like web hosting compelling has been one of the funnest elements of the job. What’s more, getting to partner with the entire Reclaim team and the likes of Bryan Mathers to do it has been the real gold.

Gold Record plan for the newly launched Reclaim.Press

Bryan will quickly deflect any praise or compliment right back at you taking little to no credit for how much his own visual storytelling shapes our identity by capturing a raucous sense of cultural play without sacrificing a deep, company-wide commitment to an open and independent web.

Bryan Mathers early vision for the indie edtech record store with snide proprietor and all 🙂

There’s a fine line to walk between tongue and cheek references and an underlying commitment to what can be referred to as indie edtech or trailing edge technology. A belief that the new and shiny can often obfuscate the long history of edtech, but also erase any sense of its embedded cultural history that impacts ours daily lives.

The iconic, industrial visual label of Reclaim Cloud

The link between edtech and vinyl or edtech and an independent record store is not only playful, but also an argument for the production of online culture and the value of an independent space to do it. Reclaim understands itself outside the homogenizing box-store mentality of massive social media sites and hosting services, much like independent record labels such as Dischord that are anathema to the mainstream business of music. It’s about community, it’s about focus, and it’s about controlled, responsible growth. These are so many of the understated, subliminal messages in the Mathers Aesthetic that are directly linked to an ethos of indie edtech.

The ds106 album cover where Giulia Forsythe remixes Raymond Pettibon that in many ways pre-figures Bryan Mathers remixing

I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that Bryan, however inadvertently, has become the Raymond Pettibon of indie edtech, and his aesthetic permeates far beyond the confines of Reclaim Hosting’s “album covers.” If I was being selfish I would refer to all the great work he has created for us over the years as the “Reclaim aesthetic,” but if I were to be honest it’s more appropriate to say “that Mathers aesthetic!”—and we have just been lucky enough to be early to the party. Go ahead, try and create your online identity with an AI prompt, we’ll be over here working with the artists.

Posted in art, Reclaim Cloud | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

ReclaimEDU: the Infomercial

“I have fallen and I can’t get up”

I had the good fortune to do a stream last week with Pilot and Maren about ReclaimEDU, something we’ve been doing for clients for well over a year now, but have not pushed more broadly until just recently. “What is ReclaimEDU?” you ask. Well, it is high-availability WordPress hosting that ensures your site remains up. This depends upon your site being duplicated across different data centers in different regions to allow for instant fail over. What’s more, speed and security are crucial thanks to global caching, DdoS protection, and bot management. In other words, if you have a site that just can’t go down, then ReclaimEDU is for you. Also, I am using the “I have fallen and I can’t get up” GIF because Paul Bond referred to my spiel in the following video as my “infomercial” -which I take as a compliment!

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The Dr. Oblivion Bot

In the latest episode of Reclaim Today, Paul Bond and I catch up with Michael Branson Smith (MBS) in order to break down how he created the Dr. Oblivion bot running at Oblivion.University. Paul has been integrating the bot into his ds106 course quite impressively over the last several weeks by introducing students to how to build such a Frankenstein creation.

As it so happens, MBS is a repeat offender on Reclaim Today, we chatted a few years ago about his CSS-generated animated movie posters—that are amazing—and it seems his creativity has no limits. He’s not afraid of AI or CSS!

Posted in AI, digital storytelling, Oblivion University | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment