Some tech stuff: DreamHost, WordPress and OpenID

Since I am getting back to tech life, a good first post would be about tech.

What caused the big downtime was a not-very-careful switch from a friend’s Linux server to DreamHost. I switched because I am too old, too lazy, and too impatient to do Linux sysadmin anymore. I outsource it now. Especially mail system setup, which has become an infinite nightmare as a result of spam. With just a few clicks at their really excellent control panel, DreamHost let me outsource all the hassles of email to Google, while still keeping control of my web server. And actually DreamHost helps me with that too, because with a few more clicks on the control panel, I installed WordPress in my blog, then upgraded it a few months later.

I changed from MT to WordPress because the MT world has become too corporate and confusing. Is it open source or not? Is it about communication, or about selling licenses? I didn’t feel comfortable with it. Also, I’d installed WordPress at Tellme, and customized it to do some clever stuff with single signon authentication (obligatory for corporate intranet blogging). I really loved the design, it felt clean, fast, and calm. MT, on the other hand, always felt like a lumbering beast of a CGI — the kind of thing I used to write and hate myself for doing. (I’ve just noticed another good reason to use WordPress: auto-saved drafts, like in Gmail. That single feature makes all the Web 2.0 buzz tolerable.)

In a former life (WebTV and Microsoft) I was on a project to integrate Passport signon to something, I don’t even remember what. I remember loving the idea of third-party single signon, and hating Passport’s implementation. I kept watching as Liberty Alliance made the same mistakes, just to make them in an alliance against Microsoft. You guys remember that? When it used to be “everyone against Microsoft”, and you’d have these strange alliances like “IBM + Sun + Oracle + Windex + Cargill Salt” trying to knock down Microsoft. It was all rather pathetic and disgusting. I just wanted single signon to work.

So I disappeared from tech for 4 years, and when I came back, OpenID was finally done and working right. Cool. And it REALLY works right. Delegation is the coolest thing ever, and makes it so so so easy to get an OpenID that you control and will always control your whole life regardless of what becomes of Microsoft or Liberty Alliance or Windex. So the first change I made to my WordPress install was hack it to allow only OpenID. If you want to comment on my blog, you have to have an OpenID. Starting here, starting now, the “password per site” madness ends.

Here’s how I recommend to do it:

  1. 1. Signup at GetOpenID
  2. 2. (optional) Edit a webpage that you own to include the delegation magic. View source on http://nella.org/jra to see the magic. Look in the <head> tag.
  3. 3. There is no step 3.

If you did only step 1, GetOpenId tells you what your new ID is, which will be a URL starting with getopenid.com, and ending with your name.

If you did step 2, the URL of the page you edited is your OpenID. Choose which page you put the delegation magic in carefully, the whole world will know you by it’s URL.

(There is another way to get an OpenID, where you control it 100%, and don’t have to trust the nice people at GetOpenID at all. I will let the aluminum hat brigade carry on with that, and get on with my life in peace, thank you very much.)

Login to my blog with your OpenID, and WordPress automagically creates an account for you. You can edit your profile if you want, or just leave it. The defaults are good enough.

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