3 special Tech for good live podcasts for #blacklivesmatter

Black heart street art
Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

The last one of the three special edition podcasts was released just recently. I blogged about them a while ago, but now they are all available for your listening pleasure.

  1. Tech for Good Live: (Black Lives Matter Special) – Cancelling Cultures (transcript and more info)
  2. Tech for Good Live: (Black Lives Matter Special) – Canaries in the coal mine (transcript and more info as its ever so topical at the moment)
  3. Tech for Good Live: (Black Lives Matter Special) – Time For Change  (transcript and more info)

George Floyd mural in Manchester's Northern Quarter

I want to thank all my guests who joined me on the podcast, as a lot of people agreed in principle but never stepped up and joined me. Annette, Ade, Vimla, Erinma and Naomi, you were all wonderful and a breath of fresh air.

Massive thanks to Ethar & David (pretty much my co-hosts) for joining me on every single podcast!

As every podcast ends, if you have anything to say about what was said, let techforgood know on twitter or email. Thanks to podcast.co for hosting the shows and finally a huge thanks to the tech for good live team.

Black lives matter
Photo by Sushil Nash on Unsplash

Remember Black lives still matter and I’d recommend listening to the others who also took up the offer.

Could Covid19 be the Airbnb host shake out which was needed?

Updated: 24/4/2020 – Enough said

Some Airbnb hosts are a bit screwed right now. Although the platform has had some trouble before Covid19. I’m sure the platform will keep on going but its going change for some.

Airbnb, a home-sharing website, has seen bookings fall by 40% in big European cities as the pandemic halted trips. It may delay its IPO, which was expected to be this year’s biggest. But despite racking up losses of late, it is well-managed, cash-rich and, thanks to an unmatched global reach that puts up a high barrier to entry, likely to make money again once people get back to travelling.

The Economist

I do not feel sorry for those Airbnb hosts who bought all those extra house/flats for the sole purpose of renting on Airbnb.  They took the living piss extracting huge sums of money and ruined local communities as they did. This could be the world wide shake out of the Airbnb money making mania?

Post Covid19, I’m banking on the emphasis being less on GDP and more on human values.

Should I have hosted a Chinese person in my airbnb?

Airbnb and the Coronavirus outbreak

Recently I hosted a person from mainland China in my Airbnb. Its certainly not the first time and unlikely the last. They were nice, quiet and respectful of the rules.

But I was talking to a few people and they asked me if I had thought about the Coronavirus (COVID-19)? I laughed it off but honestly I did think for a bit before accepting the booking. The thinking wasn’t long especially because I wasn’t happy to ask the question and somewhat discriminate on the grounds of nationality (this is also against Airbnb’s policy)

Talking to others, they felt I wasn’t taking it seriously. Although I will say more people die of the flu and TB than COVID-19! The frenzy in the press is getting insane.

So I had another look at the policy and noticed a addition for the Coronavirus outbreak

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. Affected hosts and guests can find info on our Extenuating circumstances policy for coronavirus page.

This is something which seems to have taken the Airbnb community groups and others by storm

Looking deeper into the new policy I found this part…

For reservations with guests travelling from mainland China to destinations outside of mainland China

The extenuating circumstances policy applies to any reservations booked on or before 1 February 2020, with check-in date of 1 April 2020 or earlier. This applies for guests travelling from mainland China with reservations outside of mainland China, or hosts outside of mainland China with guests travelling from mainland China.

Other scenarios that require documentation

Regardless of reservation date, the extenuating circumstances policy applies to reservations of all global hosts or guests who must change or cancel travel:

  • In order to comply with disease control restrictions implemented by relevant governmental or health authorities;
  • In order to perform medical or disease control duties in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • As a result of flight or ground transport cancellations initiated by an airline or ground transport provider due to the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • In the event that they are diagnosed or suspected of being infected with COVID-19 by a medical or health authority.

We ask that all community members be mindful of respect, inclusion, and our nondiscrimination policy when interacting with other members of our community.

So I think I did the right thing. Its not right to discriminate on the location. My guest was fine! However for those worried, you know what I’ll be doing if anything negative happens to my health (ha!)

Why is airbnb only just waking up to this?

being told off by airbnb

Although what happened over the weekend in New York was awful, I find Airbnb’s response too slow and too late.

CEO Brian Chesky announced on Wednesday at The New York Times DealBook Conference four changes the company will be implementing. The changes were also announced in an email to employees Wednesday.

Here are the four key changes:

1. All listings will be verified by the end of 2020 by a combination of the company and guests. Chesky said that he wants to “make sure we can stand behind every single listing and host,” for photo accuracy, the correct address, and safety.

2. Airbnb will now have a guest guarantee in the scenario that guests arrive at a listing and the listing does not match photos and descriptions.

3. A 24/7 hotline with real people will be available to address issues that come up.

4. Airbnb will review what it calls “high-risk” listings.

Its like they only just woke up to the fact people are doing very bad things with their platform. I mean why does it take loss of life for them to finally wake up?

Whats happened to the London Geekdinners?


Well the site went down a few months ago and it never came back up. Why? Well the geekdinner site was hosted by one person and the domain owned by someone else. This has always been a issue but I had never got round to moving the whole thing to my own server simply because of time and I blog using Blojsom not WordPress. Anyway, it turns out that the server the wordpress install was sitting on was not owned by one person, instead it was owned by a 3rd person. I'm trying to get the archives from that person but its taking very long (if you knew who he was you'd know why).

In the meantime I've been very busy with many things and wanted to get some help running geekdinners. So Cristiano and Mel have offered and to their credit started planning events. This is great news because the dutch couple are really passionate about it and will inject some more life into it. This also means we can spend more time setting up a mailing list and other things which I had talked about in the past.

So what events?
Well the first one is Werewolf which hasn't been played since the Backstage Christmas party in 2007. If you've never played werewolf before, this is a great time to learn it. Its not a board game and its only slightly geeky. In actual fact its more about social engineering and trickery that anything else. The game can accomodate between 6-26 people, so feel free to bring your friends along, it costs nothing and it takes place in a pub anyway. So you have no excuses!

Pause for breath on Wednesday, then we have the 2nd geekdinner for 2008 on the Thursday. This time the guest is Dr. Richard Clayton from the University of Cambridge. He's going to talk about Evil ways to make money on the Internet. I'm saying no more, but it promises to be pretty awesome. This will cost 5 pounds for food which is a bargin for good food while enjoying the talk. Hope to see you all there.

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Like watching a baby playing with a loaded gun…

Baby face closeup

…Is what Miles said about me setting up my own virtual private server on the weekend. Yep I finally took bull by the horns and slapped down my credit card and decided to go with Hub.org for Cubicgarden.com's new resting place. To be fair I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. See I kind of thought Tomcat and Apache would be installed and ready to go. But nope I finally logged into my FreeBSD box and quickly found out that it was a barebones box and I would need to do the configuration of applications, permissions and users. Well trust me, this is no easy thing. I mean there something very different about running unix on the desktop and running it as a server. In a server environment permissions and applications running all need to be kept under tight wraps. I would agree this should be the case for a Desktop environment too, but you can be a little more flexable with the configuration of a desktop machine. Put it this way, being a admin with root access to your own server is certainly compareable to building your first F1 car then racing it along the streets of Monte Carlo. Or as Miles puts it a baby with a loaded gun.

Either way, with thanks to Miles and tons of resources online like this one, I'm almost up, running and hopefully pretty secure. Rather than the usual Apache 2.x and Tomcat 5.5.x type configuration with mod_jk, I've gone for Tomcat 5.5.x with Pen in front for a reverse proxy and load balancer. Miles suggested Pound and Balance but I couldn't get Pound to compile without seriously messing with OpenSSL and Balance didn't seem to forward HTTP traffic without stripping away the header information. Pen is just like Pound it would seem, but also runs on Windows which is good to remember for other projects I may have in mind with my old Windows 2000 box. So yeah its a pretty sweet setup so far and means I loose the overhead of running Apache when all I really want is Tomcat. By the way, I was very close to installing Resin 3.x but decided against it for now.

Compiling Cocoon only took 2 mins once I finally untared and gunzipped the source. Can I just say how much of a nightmare Compression is? This guide was very useful for not only uncompressing files (tar -xvvzf cocoon2.1.8.tar.gz) but also compressing them. It took me a while to work out the correct parameters to compress a directory of files and its contains but keep the permissions and modified dates (which is extreamly useful for moving blojsom blog entries) . tar -cRvzf archive.tar foldertocompress/. Anyway, Cocoon is running happily in Tomcat now and Blojsom is also running fine with everything this blog has up till Feb 26th. So I'll have to do another update just before I swap over to the new server. This will also mean there will be a period of maybe 2 days when the blog and RSS feeds may time out or seem out of date. Don't worry I'll warn you in advance of the exact day.

So what next on the horizon? Well I need to do some more securing and enable Log4J on Tomcat and Cocoon. I've also still got to sort out basic Unix type things. For example while I was setting up the server, the only text editor I had was vi and the only shells were tsch and some other weird ones. Yep thats right no Nano or Bash. I don't know how I managed, but trust me I'll be avoiding vi when ever possible. I've already chpass all the users and made Bash the default shell. Beyond this, I'm considering Hamachi for Linux which would mean I could securely login to Blojsom, Tomcat and anything else from anywhere without setting up that crazy port forwarding in Putty. This sounds over kill but I'm tempted to at least run Hamachi on my Smoothwall Firewall server at home.

In regards to Cocoon, well my next step which I had planned to do if I was not writing this long blog post, would be to install Saxon 8.7 (good to see a .net version btw) in Cocoon using this guide (I know it works, i already installed Saxon 8.4 on the development machine at work). While with Blojsom, I will start trimming down some of the outstanding issues I had.

Oh before I finish, did I say how great Wget and Sudo are? Loaded gun indeed.

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Moving cubicgarden.com again

For quite sometime I've been having issues with running Blojsom on a shared Java host. See its possible but not ideal. It would seem Blojsom is best placed in a dedcated servlet container where it can have room to move. So for quite some time I've been holding on to my very cheap shared hosting by Interadvantage. The System Admistrator has been helping me out for quite some time but it just seems Cubicgarden.com is just generally growing in popularity and outgrowing its small plot of internet land. For the last 2 months I've been trying to cut down on system hit by using OSCache and Log4j to solve the errors I might be getting. But it came to a head just recently… here's a slightly edited email I recieved.

I've noticed that whenever your site gets hit hard, our server's load goes way up and other sites become unresponsive. This is particularly a problem in the mornings, from about 8 – 12 AM our time. I assume all the geeks over here who are addicted to your blog get their RSS feed (because you get a lot of RSS traffic then), and then go hit your blog if they see something of interest.

I also took a look at your stats, and about 25% of your page loads come from crawler.bloglines.com.

At any rate, your site is successful, and active, and it depends on Blojsom. When it's getting hit, your site dominates a loaded Dual Xeon server, so I think it's unlikely we can reduce the load to an adequate level just by tweaking Blojsom. Sadly, I again need to encourage you to look for another host. I don't think it's fair for you to try and host your blog in a shared environment; I really think you should put it on a VPS or dedicated server so that Blojsom can't hog CPU and memory that is being shared by other sites.

This came to a head this morning because our company president was trying to do something on your server at 10:00 AM, and he was very upset by the performance. He wants resolution to this situation, and suggested we give you 30 days to find a different host.

It has been fun working with you, and I'm sorry to write this note. I do wish you the best in your future endeavors.


interAdvantage Administrator

So once again I'm on the look out for a good java hoster which provide virtual private servers for people on tight budgets. So far the cheapest I've found is 4Java.ca's private tomcat at 14.95 candian dollars a month for Tomcat 5 with 600meg of space and 10gig of data transfer. But Daily Razor's RazorBLAZE package attracts me because they also supporting Cocoon cost 19.95 american dollars a month for 5gig of space and 80gig of data transfer which is fantastic in comparision. VPS land seems ok too at 3gig of space and 40gig of bandwidth. One of the things I loved about Interadvantage which seems hard to to come by is, the friendly and knowledgable system administrator. The System admin has been working with me for quite some time and I know for a fact that this email was something he didn't want to write. We tried to get Cocoon working in a shared environment but came to the conclusion that it was not possible with serious security overrides. So please don't blame the ISP for this letter, its my fault for trying to slot a popular blog and amazing blog software in a shared environment. I'm sorry to the other people on the same server and I'll be moving soon.

So if you have any other hosts which do Java servlets, allow for at last 5gig of transfer data a month and cost as little as 10 pounds a month do please recommend them to me in the comments.

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