SoftLayer hardware firewall is awful

I’ve been having a problem lately with people hitting my server more than I’d like. I’ve been using iptables to drop requests from these IPs, but I wanted something that took the load completely off of my server, and could be bypassed in case I put in a bad rule that locked me out. So I decided to try the SoftLayer hardware firewall.

This feature is expensive: $49 per month for a 10Mbps hardware firewall. That is a lot, but I figured it would be worth it to have the added protection for my server. Sadly, I was wrong. The interface to manage the firewall is garbage.

It shows a basic form listing all the firewall rules. You select the rule priority by numbering the rules 1 through however many rules you have. There is, however, no way to add a new rule to the top of the list (or the middle of the list) unless you re-number every single rule. If you have 20 rules, this can be tedious. If you have 100 rules, this can be extremely frustrating. Even worse, if you make a mistake and have a duplicate priority number then the page refreshes with all the rules set to a priority of “1”. So now you have to start all over.

Unlike iptables, there is very little help available for the firewall. SoftLayer provides a handful of knowledge base articles, but none of them include screenshots or advanced examples.

Within a few hours of using the service, I realized that it wasn’t going to work out and I’d be better off with iptables. I started a chat with the billing department, and was told they’d create a ticket to review crediting me for the service, and then they gave me instructions on how to cancel. I followed the instructions and the service was promptly removed from my server.

Sadly, I was informed that the terms of service prevented them from giving me a refund, and they said that the billing department only said they’d look into crediting me for the service, not that they actually would. How deceptive! Do they really expect me to believe that their own billing department doesn’t know what they claim is the standard SoftLayer refund policy? I likely still would have canceled the service, but I feel pretty ripped off having used the service for just a few hours, experiencing several issues with it, being told (from my perspective) that I’d get a refund, and then being stuck with the bill for a full month of service. Egh.

Overall, SoftLayer is awesome. Quality servers at great prices. In this situation though, complete fail. The firewall is garbage and they handled the situation very poorly. I’m not disappointed enough to start immediately hunting for a new host, but I’ll definitely be considering other options for my future server needs.

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Fake Money Generator

Fake Money Generator

I bought on Saturday and was so excited about the project that I’ve practically finished it. There are a few things I’d like to improve, but the basic functionality is fully functional.

So what does it do? Well, first you pick a currency. For example, you could pick a $50 bill, or a 10 franc bill. There are 30 options, so you are bound to find one you like.

Next, you log in using Facebook. This gives the site access to photos that you are tagged in, and lets you pick one. If your face is tagged properly, then it automatically puts your face in the hole on the money.

Last, you can move your picture around, make it bigger or smaller, rotate it, whatever. You can get it exactly where you want it. Once you like it, you can download the picture to your computer.

The site was a ton of fun to make. I had to do some research into counterfeiting to make sure I was following the law, and ended up having to delete a few of the images I had planned on using.

The site uses canvas to handle the image compositing, moving, rotating, etc. This is the first time I’ve done anything using canvas, and had to fight some browser quirks to get it to work. It should work perfectly in Chrome, Firefox, and IE9, but I had to disable a few features in IE7/IE8. I really don’t care about IE6, but it probably doesn’t work at all in it.

To make sure the visitor gets a high quality image, the download functionality is entirely in PHP. The position of your Facebook photo is passed to PHP, and the script places it on the money then spits out a high quality PNG. This eliminates any browser compatibility issues with saving from a canvas, and ensures the image quality wasn’t reduced due to poor browser scaling.

My lovely wife, Becca, made the arrows and rotate icons for me.

It still needs some work. There are a few UX issues I want to fix, such as remembering where in the Facebook photo scroller the user is when they go to a new page, and making it easier/faster to scroll through photos. But, as you can see by the photo on this post, it works! Yay!


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A new homepage for my baby girl

I’m one of those weird techie dads that thinks everyone in the family should have their own domain name, so I bought a domain for my daughter shortly before she was born.

I’ve struggled to know what to put on it. I don’t really want yet another blog to maintain (I barely maintain the ones I already have) and she isn’t old enough to have created any content of her own. A picture gallery doesn’t seem useful when it is so much easier to just use Facebook for sharing photos. So what to do?

Last night I had a great idea: a personal landing page. A simple page that says who she is, has a photo of her, and links to a few sites that are likely to provide some interesting reading to family and friends. So this morning I whipped up something that I think turned out pretty dang cute. Check it out at (the .com was already taken).

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My latest server rebuild

Every year or two I like to order a new dedicated server and migrate all my stuff to it. This gets me newer hardware and software, lets me customize the hardware to my current needs, and gives me a chance to fix any mistakes I made with the configuration of the previous server. Plus I often save some money.

I just placed my order with SoftLayer for my latest server and am so super excited to start working on it. I remembered to check for any specials, and was lucky to grab an awesome one that has saved me some cash while letting me get a way beefier server than I had intended.

The configuration I settled on ended up being $550/month cheaper with the promo code and some luck (sometimes you get better than ordered, because they don’t have what you ordered available). That is a savings of $6,600 for the first year! Even better, it ended up being $10/month cheaper than my existing server, so I’m getting a much more powerful machine for $120/year less.

Specs of the new server:

  • OS: CentOS 6.0 (64-bit)
  • CPU: 2 x Intel Xeon-Westmere 5620-Quadcore [2.4GHz]
  • RAM: 12GB DDR3
  • Hard drive: 2 x 100GB SSD in RAID 1

I better get configuring. I’m only saving money if I quickly migrate to the new server.

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New Corban Works website

New Corban Works website

I’ve been hard at work on a new project, but got temporarily distracted by the horribleness that was the Corban Works website. I’ve had a rough idea of what I wanted to do with it for quite a while, but couldn’t get myself to devote the time to it.

So I finally buckled down and knocked out the new design in a couple days. It is pretty basic, but I like it a lot. The whole point of the Corban Works site is to showcase all my websites, so I switched from a blog format to a gallery format. It makes the page colorful and fun.

I also added some updated/new icons that show up over certain sites. This is all controlled from a single config file that defines all my sites, when they were created, and when they were last updated. This means I only have to update a single spot and the updated/new icons move themselves.

Anyways, I’m pretty happy with it.

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Recipes and U.S. copyright law

I often search for recipes online and end up at sites like The recipes I find often have terrific reviews and star ratings. The problem, however, is that people are dumb.

You see, people have a bad habit of writing reviews along the lines of:

Oh my gosh this is the most amazing recipe in the world! My family loves it! My dog loves it! My neighbors love it! Oh by the way I didn’t actually follow the recipe. I made so many changes that my review is completely irrelevant.

Drives me crazy. I follow the 5 star recipe that has 4,000 reviews and it turns out awful because nobody is actually reviewing the recipe.

The solution? Make my own recipe site, Recipe Kabob!

Under U.S. copyright law, recipes can’t be copyrighted. Sure, you can copyright your pictures of your recipe and copyright your substantial descriptions of the recipe, but the recipe itself can’t be copyrighted. This means anyone can copy any recipe and it isn’t actually stealing. Awesome, no?

So I’ve started a recipe site. I don’t want people’s comments or reviews. I don’t care what they did different. The recipes I list are great as-is and don’t require modification. Think of it like a cookbook.

If you see something you like, feel free to take it. :)

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