vbum

“An incompetent, insignificant, or obnoxious person”

Success and Failure

Success can be your worst enemy. That’s probably the best statement I can make about my current situation. To many the word success means just they’ve made it happen and life is grand. And while in some respects there is truth to that. There is also this element of having peaked and from there it’s all downhill. Much like riding the wave on a surfboard the best moment is when you get up then realize you’re on the top of a giant wave. From there it’s all down and you’re only waiting to stop.

I remember before I had my current success I was very hungry for success. I’d wake up with desire and intentions for the day. I had very little distraction and I had a lot of focus. Days would be filled with work, coding, and studying. I was working and almost nothing was going to prevent me from reaching my goals.

I’ve always considered myself and entrepreneur. A guy that came up with great ideas and pursued the best of them. At times I would have literally hundreds of projects in the works. My goal was for at least one of these pies I had my hands in would taste great. I never considered that this one pie of success I might be eating for a very long time.

This is why success can be your downfall. Once reached, it can be a trap. My days are now filled with dealing with one project and most of it is maintenance just to make sure it doesn’t fail. That’s hardly being an entrepreneur. I feel more like a janitor cleaning toilets. Just making sure the crap doesn’t flow over.

I’ve been in this position before. I had the excuse of 9/11 why it all fell apart. And in a moment of honesty deep down I knew that I had wanted it to fail because I was tired of the project and I truly enjoyed the struggle more. I definitely wanted to do something different. My efforts to expand were the ultimate downfall of that business.

Here I am 10 years after the failure of that success. I’m facing similar issues. I’m older and wiser and more honest about what I’m doing. I’m aware an implosion could occur and I’m my own worst enemy. I miss having that intensity required to succeed. I miss being experimental and going for it I miss that moment when you realize you’re on the board and on top of the best wave of your life.

The Nut Cancer Incident

I’ve had sum lumps on my testicles for some months now. I’ve been very worried about it. At first I was like “wtf is that” and as the months passed and I tried to monitor them. I noticed more lumps. The worry and anxiety grew as I started to wonder if this was cancer. I’m 42 and testicular cancer hits about 1 in 270 men of which only about 1 in 5000 actually die but still no one wants to hear they have cancer. It’s also the most common cancer for men from 20-39 years old.

So I’ve been secretly carrying this mental burden for many months. I was happy to deny it but couldn’t help but think about it every time I touched my Johnson in the shower or taking a leak.

I must freely admit I’m a cry-baby when it comes to health. I hate visiting doctors and as much damage as I’ve physically taken in my life I probably fear nothing more than a doctor visit to fix the actual damage. I’m practically full-on phobic about it.

I finally just last week told my wife. She was like “wtf” too, but she understands me. I actually told her while pretty drunk and I guess the booze got me all freaked out and I started doing that drunken cry some of us do. I curled up like a little bitch actually to be honest and balled my eyes out. Yes, I was pretty damn drunk.

As soon as she could she got me a doctor appointment. Now sober and with my secret out it was time to face this. I really had no choice.

My doctor is great to be honest. He’s a wonderful primary physician actually. As much as I fear doctors and hospitals this guy does a great job.

So yesterday we go. He does the whole workup, ball feeling up, and eventually the ultrasound. After some discussion on the subject of lumpy balls and other things the conclusion was that I just have lumpy balls and it’s not cancer. The ultrasound was clear and my lumps aren’t actually on the testicles themselves. My doc said it’s just that some men get wormy veins and some don’t but in most cases the cause is not actually harmful to you nor cancerous.

I just can’t say how relieved I am. I did a quick Tweet yesterday that I am sure some of you took as some mysterious oddball remark but I assure you that it was genuine relief I didn’t have nut cancer. The lesson here though which I hope you all take out from this is that if you think something is wrong go and see a doctor. Don’t allow your fears or excuses take hold. Get a medical checkup and face it.

A Day Gone Wrong and Right

A Day Gone Wrong and Right

Yesterday was some goofy day. I had 2 days of HF stuff I was behind on. Lots of PMs, emails, and orders to catch up with. I had a good night of sleep though and was ready to take on the day. Within 10 mins of turning on the computer the wife walks in asking if I wanted to go out for breakfast.

A smart man doesn’t say no to his wife very often and besides that I could use some grub. I figured I’d be back in 90 mins or less.

So we headed out and all went well but I did get an afternoon Bloody Mary and that was delicious. Not much alcohol really which was fine.

Oh I forgot to mention that the “good night of sleep” meant I slept till about noon. Sometimes you just gotta pull the covers over your head when the sun comes up and keep on sleeping.

So breakfast was great and we headed out but then the wife says let’s get some groceries. I sighed and tried to just go home but truth is we needed some milk and something for dinner. So off we went to get groceries.

After we got our few bags of goodies it’s nearly 3pm which means it’s time to get my kids from school. And that’s exactly what we did next.

Oh another thing I forgot to mention. Soon as I woke up I made a whole pot of coffee and this entire time it’s just sitting there waiting for me. I love my coffee and the days I drink a pot are the days I do lots of work. I was preparing to do a heavy load.

Nearly 4pm I’m finally at home. I grab my coffee, sat down, and began to see what’s in front of me to do.

Apparently site was having some intermittent downtime and first thing caught my eye was a thread about Cloudflare problems. Now I have monitors all over the place and sure enough something did appear amiss. Uptime is high on the priority list and so I go take a look.

Most things seem okay but the past week or so a few nagging DDOS attacks have caused minor disruptions but these are annoying to everyone and to be honest I could do something about it. So I did. I enabled a few modules I have running and did some adjustments to rules. Immediately caught a few IPs working past DDOS protection at CF. “Excellent”, I thought.

While in SSH on our server I was reviewing some logs and noticed an error for a seg fault from Apache. Well that shouldn’t have been there. It kept popping up too. That needed investigation. And it’s also where the day just goes wrong. And I bet you thought this story was about breakfast.

Apparently this seg fault error has been going on for some time and I just didn’t notice it. A seg fault basically means a process died from an error instead of gracefully being shut down. I had an A-HA moment thinking I stumbled onto something that might be why serving hasn’t been so amazing lately. It’s been fine but moments of server hiccups happen and a refresh is required to get the page to load. It happens and I wasn’t overly concerned but here I was sitting there in front of the error. No proper sys admin would ignore this situation. I had to fix it.

Some quick Googling and a few possibilities were in front of me. One was hardware failure. Another was script error. Lastly it could be a bad module for Apache or PHP.

I decided to work first with modules and packages and proceeded to update everything I could on the server which might be the conflict. I’m really familiar with this stuff so it wasn’t too bad. Just some compiles and installs and a few config alterations. Nothing that I was a problem to handle. One module didn’t work though and for a small time the site displayed an Xcache error. That took me 15-20 mins to fix. But overall I got everything updated and working. The problem however didn’t go away and the error in the logs was still happening.

Now it’s been a few hours and it’s getting later and later and this error is getting on my nerves now.

I was praying that we didn’t have a hardware error because actually those are harder to troubleshoot. You could have bad ram, bad drive sector, faulty mobo, or even your CPU could be failing. So normally you end up having your datacenter just swap it all out but a new drive would mean a new rebuild too. Not what I wanted to do anytime soon. But out of obligation I had to run some memory tests which were all passed just fine. I really didn’t think the issue was hardware though consider the error was very consistent. Wait a minute…hold on here. Let’s take a peek again at the error.

The error actually coincided with our deny actions inside htaccess. Reviewing the server error log along with site error log and sure enough. They matched. This meant that the deny process or something to do with it was causing a seg fault. I felt I was onto something now. Finally was narrowing this down after hours of typing away.

Opening htaccess it all appeared rather normal but maybe there was one line causing problems. I actually had some weirdness with htaccess before but I won’t bother you with details on that. I started to remove lines. No effect. I remove more lines. No effect. I removed just about everything. The error stops. Yup, that’s right. The error stops. Something inside htaccess is causing a process ending in a seg fault.

After hours updating my packages and modules I was right back with Apache reviewing conf files and trying to figure out if I had something I shouldn’t. Or maybe it was a setting I had goofed. I do so much custom stuff I wouldn’t be surprised if I did goof it up somewhere. At least I knew I was onto something.

Surprisingly this entire time I’m fairly calm about the work. I drank my coffee. I was enjoying the challenge. But after many hours I was starting to get worn out. I closed my SSH session. I had some dinner but it was getting late. I felt I was done for the night and played some HackerCraft and answered some PMs.

This is where being a sysadmin gets into your blood though. Wasn’t long before I had some ideas on the problems after my short break and opened SSH again. This time I was going to figure it out.

I toyed with the htaccess for a long time trying different ways to write the file and different options with Apache confs. I felt I was finally getting somewhere. Then around 1am I was confident I had the error nailed and eradicated. Our configs and setup were not only still intact but everything was updated. We were actually not only fixed but better than before I started. This is where being a sysadmin is rewarding. It’s a wonderful feeling to achieve.

But wait a second. Didn’t I still have two days of work piled up? Because even though I just busted my bum to get rid of an error and upgrade parts of the server I still have those PMs, emails, and orders to deal with. Boy I was very tempted to log off and get some sleep but actually the coffee I had earlier was still giving me some juice. Enough so that one by one I took care of it all. All orders were done. All the PMs were replied to. All the stickies taken care of. It wasn’t till 4am that I really got off the keyboard and tried to get some sleep. It was some day I tell you.

Waking up the next day my first priority was making sure the error was still gone. And it was. But I wanted to share my story with everyone because I think often when I have days like this it appears I’m not working hard or maybe I’m not concerned about HF. When in fact that’s the furthest from the truth. Even on a day I don’t post much. Or a day I’m not answering PMs. I’m still here working to improve our site.

Now I have 35 PMs to answer and some posts to make. Thanks for reading as usual and see you all around the forum.

MyBB.com Stolen and Offline Security

I’m just sitting here contemplating the past 24 hours events. I’m feeling very uneasy about the recent attack on MyBB.com. Apparently the registrar and host of MyBB.com was socially engineered into changing information. Whois information and DNS was changed so the domain redirected to the criminals site. They personally named me as part of the reason for the attack. It’s that last part that I feel mostly uneasy about.

I’ve enjoyed using MyBB on all my forums for years. I’ve donated to the MyBB project and even assisted with acquiring the MyBB domain name. Of course I also run MyBBCentral.com which is my own MyBB support site for my plugin releases. So I feel a kinship with the project. In some ways their fate and mine are tied together. So when I learned that MyBB.com was stolen my heart sank a bit. And when I learned that I was personally named as the reason…well I just felt very sad that a project I loved was effected because of me.

MyBB.com is still offline but a holder page is up and Chris B. the founder claims to have it all back and he’s running a full security audit. That’s good news.

The penetration was a simple one. Call up customer service, ramble off some fake info, and maybe even provide a fax/email with a fake ID. Then get them to change something important like email contact and bingo…you’re in. From there you can start getting into the server control panel or the registrar with PW resets and take it all over. No real hacking or computer skills. Just plain old fraud and lying. The attackers claimed to have obtained a dump of the database. Chris of MyBB states they never gained actual server access. I don’t see the benefit of a dump for them since MyBB doesn’t take CC payments and it’s basically just a free open source project. So I have to assume this was all just to get some attention as they won’t really profit from this fiasco.

Recently this same group had done the same thing against WHMCS and released a large customer database. They also have recovered fully but the scar left from the attack will probably not heal for some time. Interesting to note that I personally have zero affiliation with WHMCS. I don’t use it at all. I’m sure some empty reason was given by the criminals for the attack. I have yet to see one but I’m sure it’s around somewhere. The criminal was arrested and questioned.  If we’re lucky he’ll get prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

What’s been done by this group is not elite. It’s not fantastic. It’s simple fraud meant to damage innocent and legitimate companies. And the group are not hacktivists either. They have no real mission beyond their personal exploits and recognition. There is no noble cause they are striving for. Their whole anti-SOPA rhetoric is obviously mush since MyBB.com was also against SOPA. They are not hacktivists. They are cyber-terrorists. Their symbolism of Hitler is evidence of that. They will do whatever they can to get noticed.

Unfortunately for them they’ve been noticed by the FBI. Already one member was arrested and questioned which means more are sure to follow. We can only hope the end of their terrorism is over but I have a bad feeling it’s not and that other targets are being viewed by them. I have no doubt that eventually they’ll be prosecuted but will others recognize them as criminals or heroes? I’m fearful people will be inspired by these actions when they should instead be ashamed.

So what good can come from all this? Where is that silver lining? I’m not seeing it. I would hope more companies take more precautions when it comes to their customer service in phone calls but I don’t see that happening soon. Seems to me that the questions they ask to verify identity are always generic info that at this point almost anyone can obtain. Like your last 4 of your SS or your address. Online you often have security questions and answers but offline when you make a call they don’t ask you these. User data should never be changed by customer service without strong verification of identity. More so than just a few questions on the phone. I’m hoping that in 3-5 years offline security is taken more seriously. If there is a silver lining in any of this it’s that what this group has done is only going to be the beginning of havoc we can potentially witness.

No matter what measures you’ve taken to be secured online you can’t overcome the policies and stupidity of a company’s customer service. Is that the lesson they want us to learn?

My 9/11 Story

It’s hard not to be honest about a day that changed your life. One can even say it’s impossible. The moments never forgotten that are ingrained into your thoughts. The emotions you feel when inevitably you have a flashback. So my telling of 9/11 will be the truth as I recall it. It will be my story but one I know others will relate to.

It was a Tuesday morning. A gorgeous day in September in New York City. I had an appointment in Manhattan at 10am. Every Tuesday I was seeing a therapist. I was needing someone to talk out my problems with and seek unbiased advice. I was 31 years old and my life was hectic. I had reached a boiling point and my friends and family around me asked that I do something about it. So I sought out therapy. Long term it wasn’t for me and eventually I had resolved my issues but that’s for another story.

My alarm had awoken me. It was very average that day. I showered quick, got dressed, brushed my teeth, and headed toward the subway. Living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan meant a nearly daily commute of almost an hour each way. In NYC that’s common and normal. I used the time on the train wisely and read books or the newspaper. Sometimes I would listen to music. I even ate on the train. I was never bored. I kept myself occupied.

Delays are common too. NY’ers are immune to hour waits while whatever else is going on is resolved. Anything from police action to sickness can result in long waiting periods. So you must be prepared to be patient. I’m admittedly an impatient person but I’ve grown accustomed to train delays. On this day the delay was different.

I was riding the B train which travels from Coney Island in Brooklyn through Manhattan which was my destination. It stops frequently. I was enjoying my ride but I remember feeling alert. I was anticipating my therapy session and considering how I felt about the last week. When you go to therapy you can’t just walk in without some expectation of what you want to discuss. At $120 an hour you made sure not a minute was wasted.

The train was coming close to leaving Brooklyn. The B train travels at first above ground and then burrows into downtown Brooklyn. As it reaches the river it escalates over the Manhattan Bridge. An ascension into a mecca of building. It’s normally a view I don’t take for granted. I enjoy skyscrapers immensely.

I was born in Minnesota but my fathers side of the family were all born in Brooklyn. My grandparents, uncles, and aunts from that side of the family were almost all in Brooklyn. I had spent entire summers in Brooklyn and it was amazing. I would be taken on tourist rides into Manhattan by my uncles frequently. I also have a single memory when I must have been 4 or 5 and my grandfather took me to the World Trade Center. It was magnificent. Even as a very small child the wonder of these buildings were awe inspiring. They literally reached into the clouds. Standing at their base made one feel the power of humanity. You felt vertigo peering up so far that you almost had to bend over backwards. Few native New Yorkers really appreciated these marvelous achievements. They were for many decades the tallest buildings in the world. And there wasn’t just one. There was two of them.

The Twin Towers. The World Trade Centers. They represented a great deal to me. They represented New York, a memory with my grandfather, and a deep desire to achieve. In a way the WTC inspired me to be more. Even before September 11th I had deep emotional attachments to these structures.

So when I turned 18 and had no direction in my life I made a bold move. I went from St. Paul, Minnesota to New York City. It was not easy. But turning into a man I don’t think ever is. I was on my own for the most part. While I did get some family help early on I was the type of person to want independence. I never wanted to rely on others. Within months I had friends and was working low paying jobs. The first place I looked for a job was inside the World Trade Center. To me it was where I wanted to be. It was the reason I was in NY. I knew there was something there for me.

My work experience wasn’t grand. I had worked at low-end jobs like Taco Bell and a car wash. I had some other restaurant experience too but at 18 you just want a job that pays. Minimum was around $4.25 an hour. So anything above that was great. I applied at many places but nothing really panned out. I was like other young people with few skills. I remember feeling low. Sitting in parks in the afternoon and just walking around without a real clue. But during that time I felt like an explorer. I had this immense city to travel. Every building I stepped into was fantastic. The architecture was grand.

Everyone knows that fast food is the last place you want to work. But after 2 weeks of searching I felt that I had no choice. I knew I could quickly snap up a job hustling burgers if it came down to it. Eventually the decision became clear. A job was more important than my pride. I had seen a very large sign right next to the World Trade Center. It was in a Burger King. So as a shy apprehensive 18 year old skinny white boy from Minnesota I stepped in and became a New Yorker. This job unlike any other shaped my life. It was the worst job I had ever had. It was the best learning experience I could ever get. I had no plans for college and while I had considered it. I never had the support or means to go forward with it. I was at the age of 17 responsible for myself. Who was going to help me? No one.

Working at this Burger King meant 5 days a week of traveling into Manhattan. It meant every day viewing the wonders of the city. The rich business men were aspiring. Who didn’t want to be rich in the 80s? I was miserable and poor. I enjoyed aspects of my job but it was probably the conflicts that taught me most. I was a good worker and quickly rose to management. This didn’t please many who had been working there for much longer than I. But I had ambition and drive. I had the desire for power and the motivation to succeed. Yes it was Burger King but I had stumbled into one of the most successful corporate Burger Kings in the world. It was corporate owned. A flagship store that was often used to test new products. The CEO of BK would stop in and see how things were doing. It was definitely a place to launch a career.

You might feel at this point that I’m giving you too much information. That I’m going off topic. But I’m pointing out my emotional attachment and history to the WTC. It was a center focal point for an important chapter in my life. To this day I can tear up with thoughts of those towers. Of times with friends and growing into my own. Of family like my Uncle Henry who is now passed but took me as a teen into the Trade Center for a view from the observation deck. And my Uncle Robert who loved me and spent a lot of time with me. He took me around like an everyday tourist as I glowed walking between skyscrapers as if they were part of the Grand Canyon.

I can only speak for myself and how the WTC inspired me. But from speaking personally with many who move to NY they had similar feelings. Ironically it was the native NY born citizens that didn’t even seem to notice how great their city truly was. I knew many young people who moved to NY that just loved the city and what it had to offer.

So back to the day of September 11th 2001. So far an uneventful morning and the weather was wonderful. No humidity and not a cloud in the sky. Temperature was great that day.

The B train was finally at the last couple stops in Brooklyn and would soon ascend over the bridge and then descend into a Manhattan tunnel. But something wasn’t going well that morning. The train was stalled. It was taking a very long time to move. We had left the last Brooklyn stop and we should have been over the bridge 20 minutes ago. Not completely unusual for a NYC train but what was unusual was the announcement from the conductor which was something like this “Sorry, we are having some delays. Apparently a plane has hit the World Trade Center and there is a fire.” I remember his voice even now. It was monotone and matter of fact. Almost annoyed even. But I was struck at the oddity of the message itself. There quick words told almost nothing yet said a great deal. A plane had hit the WTC?

It was only a few minutes more that we crawled up the bridge into the morning light to finally see what he was talking about. You can see a fire burning at the top. We had no other information from the conductor and the train would stop and go for another 10-15 minutes. During this time most had gone back to reading their newspapers and drinking their coffee. New Yorkers are a hard bunch to captivate. But my attention didn’t falter. I could not look away. I was perplexed at the site. My first instinct told me this was no accident.

Most in NY were well aware of the dangers of terrorists. We knew that the WTC was attacked in 1993 by Al Qaeda. And while the rest of America ignored Middle East policy the NY population which consisted of global citizens had a firm grasp that tensions were boiling. That America was a target especially NY. An attack wasn’t just probable. It was imminent. So while I watched the Tower burn this was in my mind. I recalled one name and it was Bin Laden. A man at the top of the FBI Most Wanted list.

But I watched and I watched. Minutes passed and the train barely moved. I’d look around stunned that this fire didn’t catch the attention of anyone else in my subway car. I had a very good view as I was in a spot on the side of the train facing the towers and right next to a window. Maybe that was why I was the only guy watching. Maybe that’s why after a time I had seen the second plane coming.

It was like a dream these moments. From the corner of my eye it caught my attention. A very obvious passenger jet airliner. Massive and lumbering in the sky. I can still clearly see it rotating back and forth taking careful aim. I remember the thought of trying to see inside the windows of the plane to catch a glimpse of a person. I could swear I saw shadows but even now I think it might have been my imagination. I had a good few seconds to watch the next horror unfold. It was obvious. This plane was headed toward the second tower. It was aiming and veering. I lifted myself off the seat and these few seconds felt like eternity. This was the moment my life changed.

In an instant it had hit the second tower. I had expected it to crash through and see debris or the signs of a plane coming out the other side. However it disintegrated. It turned into dust right in front of me. It became a fireball. My first thought was, “How many people just died. I’ve just seen people die. There was people in there.”. I was fully standing now and I had screamed loudly, “Oh my God, oh my God” and quickly sat down shivering at what I saw. I can’t tell you if I was speaking out loud now but I was stunned and doing the sign of the cross and continually saying “Oh my God” over and over. My mind could not grasp what I had just witnessed.

Now everyone was standing and looking out the window. But I couldn’t. I sat there with my heart racing while I tried to recover my senses. I suddenly realized how scared I was. I was mortified. I had just witnessed something terrible. People were killed. I knew the towers and I knew planes. I know the potential for hundreds to have died if not thousands. People were working and a full plane can carry hundreds alone. No one could have survived that blast. It was instant death for everyone.

I was so scared at that moment. I was counting the dead. I then quickly realized where I was. In NYC, in an attack, and sitting in a train on a bridge open to the sky. An attack against America was here. Airplanes were falling from the sky. The greater NY area has three very close airports. There is Laguardia, JFK and Newark Airport in New Jersey across the river. Planes were not only common they were consistent. It was every couple minutes one would fly over. You can almost always see one or more in the air. Now every plane was a potential missile aimed at the city. And here I was sitting on a bridge to the city. A possible if not likely target if a full scale attack was happening.

I guess I wasn’t the only one to think this way. Because within seconds of the plane crashing the once slow moving train was suddenly speeding over the bridge. As if we suddenly needed to find a fox hole and gain cover. I had no control and we were sitting ducks. I don’t know what I would have done if that train didn’t move. Thankfully it did.

It was only a few stops until I had reached my job. I was very late for my therapist and in light of this second crash I was now concerned with getting to safety. The city was quickly becoming aware that something was going on.

I had exited the train on 14th street and University Ave. I don’t remembering actually getting off. I only remember walking out of the station and seeing the people standing in the streets gawking down University Ave at the World Trade Center. It was a perfect view from this street. Clearly you could see the towers burn.

It was about half a mile to my store. I had owned a video game store for about 6 years on Saint Marks Place. I also had an office on the block where I was publishing a new game magazine and also trying to run some internet upstarts.

I was walking. I can’t recall if it was fast or slow. I felt numb as if in shock. I couldn’t look up at the towers. I was however watching all the reactions of people. Most simply stared up into the sky. The mass of NYU students who have their own stories of that day probably decided to skip class or leave their breakfast table. It was compelling to watch. The world was turning on their TVs.

I have one very clear memory of that walk. It was two young women. Probably NYU students walking, talking, and laughing. Yes they were laughing. They seemed oblivious and uncaring to the situation. I was very angry and I wanted to smash their smiling faces. I realized I had great anger inside me and continued to walk on more briskly to my destination.

When I arrived at my store I had called my friend and co-worker who was schedule to arrive soon anyways. He was on his way. This was before text messaging and cell phones were common. I had picked up the phone and dialed home. No one answered. I had to speak to someone. I called my best friend in Minnesota. He was awake and watching the television. I relayed my story quickly but for some reason I didn’t feel the need for a long conversation. I told him I was okay and that I loved him with a simple “Love you buddy” and hung up.

I dialed home again. No answer.

My co-worker and actually very good friend had arrived. We watched the TV which normally played video games for customers. We spoke frantically discussing how we didn’t know what to do and how best to proceed. NY was quickly under lock-down. They had closed the bridges, stopped the trains, and blocked off the tunnels. The city was under siege. What was the next move? What was the next attack?

We decided to go to the office which was two building down on the second floor. For a few minutes we went to the roof and saw the towers burning. This was so wrong I thought. It was as if my world had collapsed and the apocalypse had begun. We realized it probably wasn’t safe to be on a roof and honestly I didn’t want to watch the towers burn. I was very concerned about my family and my city.

The next couple hours were a blur. Calling people, talking, and in general trying to figure out what all this meant. We had decided to open. Routine seemed to be the only way to continue the day without going mad. What were we to do? There was nowhere to go.

I finally spoke with my wife. She was fine. I told her I was fine. Our children who went to school a few blocks from our home were fine. We told each other how much we loved one another. Once I figured out how I was getting home I’d call her again.

I called back my best friend in Minnesota from my store. He was watching the TV and I wasn’t. So he relayed to me the news. I was telling him what I felt and what was going on. I guess in a weird way I wanted to speak with someone who was safe outside the city. If something terrible was going to happen I knew he’d be okay and be able to relay my story and tell my loved ones what happened to me. He went quiet for a second. He told me that there was nothing but smoke and that he couldn’t see the tower anymore. All he could see was smoke.

Watching the towers burn for nearly two hours you couldn’t avoid the questions. Will the towers fall? Can they stop the fire? Time was passing and without more attacks. Not that it felt safe but it felt like the immediate attack was over.

All he could see was smoke. Words from him that I didn’t grasp. I asked him, “what do you mean”. We were quiet but stayed on the phone. Eventually he said it, “the tower fell, it’s gone”. And in that instant my hopes of this being resolved were crushed. It was without doubt the other tower would fall too. It was smoking and burning terribly. Where was I? What was I doing? What was going on? Questions to this day I can’t answer. Had you asked me the next day I would not have answered. The World Trade Center was gone. I got off the phone.

The day moved on and I was walking between my store and office. I had walked to the corner to see what was happening in the street and to see downtown. My store was officially in Ground Zero territory. Downtown Manhattan was only a few miles away. A long walk, a short bike ride, or a quick hop in a cab. But this day no cabs, no buses, and no trains. Outside I saw a few black GM SUV driving fast toward downtown. Clearly government vehicles. It felt odd. Then I saw them.

Almost like zombies walking grudgingly from the downtown area. They were covered in debris, soot, and dust. You could see that they too had stories to tell. Witnesses each and every one of them. I couldn’t see emotion. Maybe I was too shocked or embarrassed to look into their faces. Too ashamed that I had no way to help anyone. A real feeling of helplessness came over me. I had compassion for all these people and in that moment we were in this together. My fellow New Yorkers and I couldn’t understand why this was happening to us.

The day went on mainly uneventful and shock turned into numbness and eventually I tired. I was listening to news and figuring out how to get back to Brooklyn. I normally closed at 10pm but as soon as a train was running into Brooklyn I knew I had to get home. All the bridges were closed but around 6 or 7 pm they opened up some tunnels for people to train out of the city. In a weird way it was an evacuation. I along with thousands of others were trapped just wanting to escape this nightmare and hug our loved ones.

I finally was able to catch a train that went not far from my home. It was not my usual train but it was close enough. The train was packed with people and I was forced to stand. The sadness and quiet on the train were insurmountable. It was like funeral home. I felt tears on my face. This was certainly a day on which many shed tears.

Some trains when they hit the boroughs are elevated or nick named “El’s”. The train I was on was an El and had left me off about 20 minute walk to my home. It was dusk but enough light to see far away. The weather was still gorgeous. And Brooklyn felt calm and comforting. Most walked quickly out of the car leaving the station to run home. A few of us looked back. I recall this clearly. The feeling of dread of this long day and the view of a burning city. Lower Manhattan was on fire. The smoke drizzling out for miles. I could not smell the burn but nonetheless I imagined I could. It was a powerful vision of destruction that made me feel destitute. I lingered for a moment.

I was tired from the long day and when I did arrive home I was incredibly grateful to be there. I was safe with my family but the days tragedy was unfolding. My neighbors were ready for war. One in particular walked over asking if I needed a gun. I told him we were okay. Many felt that Muslims were to blame and that a battle could break out at any time. To this day I’m amazed that a certain calm was kept. That riots to capture and kill didn’t happen. But I think many were on guard and just waiting for approval or instructions to take action. Instead our mayor Rudy Guliani spoke calmly and provided comforting words. He could have just as easily pointed a finger and called on New York to take action. Instead being a man of confidence and iron will he kept NY sane that day.

That night I was glued to the news on television. Reports of the days events continued. I was nearly on the edge of my seat with every new story. My wife and I broke into tears a number of times. This was tragedy on a scale we could never foresee. I stayed up very late that night as if the news would give me a conclusion. It never did.

The next day I immediately woke up and turned on the news. Reports were coming in and speculation that it was Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were all over the place. The death toll was rising and some speculated 10,000 killed. People were missing. America was scarred. Our politicians were attempting to console and comfort us.

I had found out that my store was in Ground Zero zone and cut off. There was no way to open and get back to normal. But now what was normal? It felt like NYC would never be the same and for me. It never was. The wife and I discussed leaving right away. But it felt wrong and somehow a resignation to defeat if we did. So we made the decision we would be strong and stay.

It was a couple days until my store reopened. It was slow at first but eventually normalized. But the tourists were gone. 20% of my business was gone almost immediately after 9/11. My new game magazine which I only started to publish now had this huge hurdle to face. How could anyone do anything and not think of the 9/11 tragedy? It was all around us now. The new laws, the speculation on new attacks, the added security and the invasion of Afghanistan that was about to unfold. War was upon us.

The days would pass into weeks but things were different for me and my family. I would break into a full sessions of crying without much enticement. I would wake from horrible nightmares of planes falling from the sky and my family attacked. I now flinched when a bird was in the corner of my vision. I was timid. These were signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I tried to move on with my life but I never really did. Within 4 years my business had dropped in half. My magazine after two years of publishing finally failed. Faced with loads of debt, a failing business, and a growing family I enticed the wife to leave NYC. We sold our house and chose Las Vegas as our destination.

I always say that 9/11 changed my life and it was an event that directly effected me. For many 9/11 was something they saw on the news. Something they have an opinion about. It’s often trivialized by those with no understanding of how that day effected so many. How lives were lost, families destroyed, a city ruined, and a nation challenged.

To this day you can trace the current problems of America to that event. It was a catalyst to our changing position in the world. Is America still great? It just doesn’t feel like it is.

I know some will debate the reasons for that day. Some will debate the events themselves. The conspiracies seem to never end. There is finger pointing at every turn. I myself don’t buy into any of it. It was what it appeared to be. A simple plan by terrorists that exceeded their expectations. And even if you’re not mature enough to believe that you can’t deny that a tragedy did occur that morning. That on 9/11 thousands of Americans died. People who were not soldiers. People that were like you and me.

MyBB Project Purchases MyBB.com

Mybb Project has run under Mybboard.net for many years. It was a less than optimal domain name but as many know all the good domains are taken. The owners of MyBB.com was Buy Domains. When I began using the MyBB software for my forums I wondered about the premium domain MyBB.com and contacted BD. They responded with a very high $x,xxx price. Even at the time about 4 years ago that was very high for this domain and certainly beyond the means of the MyBB Project. But I felt obtaining this domain was vital for them.

Over the years I had kept my enthusiasm for getting MyBB.com and on occassion would contact BD about the domain. Yet every time they raised their price until it hit $20k last year. Of course that’s when I began to feel it would never be bought by the project.

Years ago I had contact Chris Boulton,the project owner, and asked if I had his permission to negotiate. He had expressed that I could and he was himself very interested in the domain. We had discussed possibly splitting the price.

Well the years did pass and during those years I continued not only to use MyBB software but also run the #1 third party MyBB support and plugin forum MyBBCentral.com. I’ve  always been happy to give my gratitude to MyBB. I also run the #1 most active MyBB forum which is Alexa 6k now and recieves 20k posts per day.

Then in April 2010 I sent another contact to BD. Oddly they would send me these emails telling me 20% off for a limited time only but most I ignored. $16,000 was still way too high. However this time I shot an email back and gave a brief argument about why BD should sell to me. I recieved a call shortly after. It was a BD sales rep and we spoke for about 5 minutes and I laid down my offer and the situation.

Realistically this domain is good for no one except the MyBB Project. Any Google search for MyBB returns all mybb related pages. Their parked page was about travel and junk that I am sure made for low CTR. I just didn’t see how they could produce income. Their #1 end-user buyer was going to be the MyBB Project and it’s a free open-source project. And anyone else buying the domain could not use it commercially for forum software without MyBB sending a UDRP. So it was a stale-mate for them.

After presenting this logic and doing some name dropping (I know a few people) they began to discuss a reasonable mid $x,xxx price. Now that was a possiblity. I was willing to make a substantial donation and I know Chris was willing to fork over some cash too. My idea was the difference could be made up with donations from members.

So I created this thread: http://community.mybb.com/thread-68353.html

And so it began. All over the MyBB world donation links were setup and within a week we had over $2k in donations. The member goal was $3k and Chris and I would make up the difference.

After we had secured a certain amount of funds I had again contacted the sales rep to make a firm offer. It was lower than his initial range but nothing offensive. He accepted. I contacted Chris who held all the Paypal donations. We were given a purchase link and 48 hours till the discount would expire. Chris immediately made the payment. Within days the domain was transferred and as of today Mybboard.net now redirect to MyBB.com.

This is amazing news for the project. No longer is MyBB on a second rate domain. Even MyBB.net or MyBB.org would be better than MyBBoard.net. It was a confusing and lower than acceptable domain. In comparison how many go to SMF.com only to find after a Google search they are simplemachines.org. To compare other projects like VB and IPB do not have their short .com domains. Only phpbb.com does but now so does MyBB.com and it’s even shorter.

The purchase of MyBB.com imho shows the seriousness of the project and the long term goal of being #1.

MyBB and Increasing Performance

With my largest forum, hackforums.net,  I have had some great difficulty with MySQL lately. To give you an overview I had a 1.8gb database with 4 million records total. Multiple times per day mysql tables would lock until the server would reach max connections and crash. I have been battling this for months and it’s been getting worse week after week. This week was terrible with dozens of crashes in one day alone. So something had to be done.

The server is a dedicated mysql server with 8gb ram and an Intel quad-core processor. It should be more than enough to handle the size of this DB. The HTTP server has no problems at all. On the sql server the load does hit about 5 during peak moments but it’s normally at 2 which is about 50% CPU usage and that’s fine.

During problem times the sql process spikes to 300% wcpu usage (75%+ of cpu). The table locks are ridiculous and I watch in horror as nothing unlocks them including repairs and flush. I was forced to restart mysql every time it locked up.

So I have been looking at solutions, talking with experts, and speaking with mybb team. I have the busiest mybb forum of them all. Some may have larger databases but mine has the most queries with about 250 per second.

It was suggested that my pipe from the http to the mysql server may be the problem. It was a possibility but imho unlikely.

Eventually I decided to try innodb tables for the 2 main tables that have locked up. They are threads table and the users table. All my tables previously were myisam with the exception of sessions. I alter my sessions table to be heap/memory for increased performance.

In order to change to innodb I had to remove fulltext search in admincp. Then alter the tables in phpmyadmin. I had to actually remove the fulltext index from the threads table as it’s used to index the subject field. I changed it from a full-text index to an ordinary b-tree index. The users table required no such alterations and was easy to convert to innodb.

The reason I wanted innodb is because it supports row level locking. Essentially in myisam every time the table is accessed it locks the entire table. You can imagine with 250 queries per second how locks can be a problem causing delays. With innodb only the actual data row is locked.

Lastly I decided to remove the full-text index from the messages column inside the posts table. It was about 350mb alone and since I won’t be using full-text search I don’t believe I’ll need it. I had not converted the posts table to innodb as it’s not actually updated as often as threads or users.

The threads table is updated with every view with this query:
UPDATE mybb_threads SET views = views+1 WHERE tid=xxx;

The users table is updated constantly from the timeonline function of mybb inside class_sessions. I had altered this function but it had little effect at the time. I’ll most likely undo my changes.

Now onto the results of my innodb and full-text alterations.
Previously mysqld was using regularly 200% wcpu.
After changes mysqld is using 25% wcpu.
Previously server load was 2+
Currently after changes load is .2


This is a 1000% increase in performance and I am hoping resolves my problems. I hope my information has served to help others with active MyBB and performance problems.

Shill Bidding At Snapnames?

In an email recieved on November 4th I was informed that a top executive at Snapnames was fired for shill bidding. For those unfamiliar with the practice it’s when an insider is falsly bidding on an auction to artificially inflate the price. The accused is Nelson Brady who was the VP of Engineering.

While many are understandably visibly upset about recent events I think it’s more constructive to consider how to change it. What we need is some obvious regulation on the industry starting with dropped names. ICANN is useless imho as they seem to not have any enforcement power at all. Places like the ICA concern me because they are suppose to be a domainers lobby group but their interest lie with big business instead of average domainers.

Domain drop auction houses like SnapNames and NameJet need to be shut down. I have always considered their “service” to border on criminal and 100% imho unethical. They have been gaming the domain system for years and milking it for millions of dollars. Everything from TM domains to unscrupulous practices and now shill bidding. Feeding off the expired domains is like digging up the dead for organ transplants. Those that previously owned domains never recieve a dime from the millions made from drops. Even if they had the domain for a decade. I see no reason why drop houses should benefit so immensely when a domain is not renewed. The system is flawed. ICANN has done little to nothing to curb the practice. I would deem this similar also to scalping. Drop houses are not registrars and have no place selling domains in the way they do.

I don’t see why anyone even uses their services or why more domainers don’t stand up and cry about the practice being unethical. Oh, that’s right, many domainers have the ethics of a camel. Before you criticize me for that statement realize I been here for many years reading daily the various actions of fellow domainers. The attitude is “just make money” more than anything else. But this might be a reflection of our society more than domaining.

So let’s get back to my statement about being constructive. I have some possible solutions for you to consider.

  • 1. All dropped domains sold have to give a percentage to previous whois owner.
  • 2. Have a cap on the sale of any domain based on the original registration year. Maybe $100 for each year it was registered as an example.
  • 3. Create a regulatory body with enforcement power. ICANN doesn’t seem to have teeth.
  • 4. All dropped domain sales are to be sealed bids. This will prevent shill bidding completely as long as it’s regulated well.
  • 5. Allow registries (NetSol) more power over drops and auctions.
  • 6. Disallow completely the ability to grab drops en masse by any single entity. This would effectively close down existing drop companies.

On the plus side, let’s give some credit to Snapnames for not covering this up and firing the guy before someone external found out.

A New Support Forum Blossoms

On October 3rd, 2009 I began a new forum. With some of my other forums coming to an end or being sold off I took a moment to view my porfolio of possible domain names to use. I had some great choices such as UniverseForums.com, PronForum.com, or even TorrentForum.net. After asking around for opinions at Hack Forums with a list of 10 possible domains one domain stood out. It was SupportForums.net.

It made sense especially to the existing base I had at HF. A couple weeks had passed and some crazy antics had occurred. HF was taken down by a defacement and server exploit. Annoyed and rather frustrated I took the site offline for about 3 days. Eventually HF came back to life but not before I recommitted myself to a new forum. Out of that fiasco Support Forums was born.

It’s weeks after launch now and the site is doing very well. I had promoted it on various sites I own and that I am a member of. Currently SF has 1100 members and 19,000 posts. By all standards that’s very good for a 3 week old site.

I hope to continue to see SF grow and that anyone reading this takes the time to give it a visit.

http://www.supportforums.net

Thank you.

Parked Pages Are The Highways Billboards

Millions of domains are parked at such places as Fabulous, Sedo, or Parked.  These domains are undeveloped with many waiting for high-end buyers willing to pay top dollar.  Parking pages can generate a great deal of income for the domain owner.  How it works and what the effects on the internet are todays topic.

I have not found the exact origins of parking or what the very first company was but parking was born from the need of early domainers that were grabbing up hundreds and thousands of dropped domains.  Dropped domains are ones that have expired and while being released into the registry they are picked up very quickly.  The drop market is very lucritive and I will save some of that discussion for another post.

Domainers started to gather hundreds and thousands of domains.  Finding ways to monetize them was a real challenge.  The possibility of maintaining them all as website wasn’t viable.  The idea of letting them sit and not making any money was near sickening.  It was easy to see all the traffic on some domains as people were typing in generic keywords and terms directly into the navigation bar.  So the trick was to minimize effort and maximize profits.  PPC was a growing segment with Google Adsense leading the way. Parking was born.

In it’s essence parking domains is similar to parking your car. You drive it up to the valet and go to the movies while your car just sits around waiting for your return.   A domain owner only needs to create an account at any number of parking companies and then redirect their DNS to them. The rest is normally handled by them.  You do nothing but collect a percentage of revenue.  How much revenue is split from parking company and domain holder varies greatly but some payout as much as 100% (Bodis) and some as low as single digits.

Most professional domainers deep into parking will expend some time into research and finding great keywords or landing pages.  Keywords are the special words they will associate with the advertising.  An example would be superhost.com and using the keyword “hosting“.  This will pull information from a feed.  A feed is provided by the parking companies advertisers based on a number of factors but the set keyword is the main factor.  Now when you view superhost.com you will get ads based on hosting.  They will be relevent results that will attract a click-thru and both parking company and domain owner will get paid.  Somewhere an advertiser has just helped destroy a good domain.

If you have a negative vibe about my attitude with parking you’re right.   I do have serious reservations about the viability and the need for parking pages.  I have concluded that the negative effects of parking are greater than the positives.

First let’s peek at why parking is good.  Domain owners without an ability to develop quickly have a simple and direct method to advertise.   It’s simple and easy.  Parking pages can benefit surfers by redirecting via the ads to relevent results.  Advertisers have an effective method to reach end-users.

But what’s wrong with all that?  The problem is the same as any undeveloped item.  It will never prosper. Domains and the URL system were not created to be monetized in this way.  Surfers are often given a very generic unappealing web page that in-short are just ads.  It’s trickery.  Surfers are unaware they are giving money to the domain owner by clicking what appears to be a link to a relevent page.  Lastly parked domains are often very good domains that if developed would serve the greater good.

This is why parked pages are like billboards on the highway.  They are nothing but ads as you drive on by.  Inherently there is nothing wrong with that but imagine if you will any prime location being used this way.   It is stagnant. It’s ugly.  There is never an opportunity for development to the average joe.  Any highway property is usually worth a great deal.  The most minimal usage for any property is parking or advertising.  Domainers have found a way to do both on the internet. The experience of the internet is greatly diminished by not allowing great keyword domains that obtain amazing traffic to be developed.  Even domainers that park realize development unlocks the greater potential but for the most part but they can’t realize that potential themselves and expect a bounty of sorts to pass on the domain.

We live in a society of capitalists.  There is greed all around us everyday.  The internet for some years felt different. It was a place where the average joe could make a living and start something creative. Now all the good domains are taken and a great portion of them by domainers with no intention of ever developing.  That is a shame.

Parking companies have experienced a decline in recent years as the economy has slipped.  Some are already fearful that parking is near an end as they have minimal leverage with their feed providers to increase revenue for them.  In fact it’s worse than that.  Google is wise enough to know that the lazy parking crowd isn’t going anywhere and they are in a position to have no choice but take cuts in revenue.  Unlike developers that can choose different methods of income the parking domainer has no choices.  Even if moving to different parking companies most use the same feeds.  The only major differences are the landing pages.

There is a sense of a shakedown in the domainer community.  The top echelon of domainers have become rather quiet lately.  Some have stopped blogging completely stating they are short of time and need to focus.  Is there an underlying message that they are losing revenue?  That’s for you to decide.  Next time you visit a parked page.  Don’t click anything except the close browser window button.  Otherwise you’re helping to feed this machine that is threatening to destroy the potential of the internet.