Welcome

My coffee mug

Hello world, and welcome to my corner of the web. This is where I write words about what I'm working on, and post photographs of things I've seen.

I'm a Software Engineer at the Wikimedia Foundation, and so of course my personal website is a wiki (running on MediaWiki). In my spare time I volunteer with WikiClubWest to work on Wikimedia projects, mostly around my family's genealogy and local Western Australian history (especially to do with Fremantle). I try to keep up with issues on all the things I maintain (but usually fail), as well as listing the software that I use.

I try to find time to work in my workshop on various woodworking projects. Recently, that's been focused on building a metalworking bench, and will soon be about a set campaign-style drawers that's in the works. I've a good-sized workshop because I don't have a car.

Travel features in my life, not because I really hugely want to go elsewhere but because I just do — and also because then I can do some interesting mapping on OpenStreetMap, and take photos for Wikimedia Commons. Sometimes I ride my bike to get there, or walk, but more often it's planes, trains and ferries.

I'm currently reading the following books: A Puritan Bohemia (Margaret Sherwood, 1896), and Arrowsmith (Anon), and Doctor Thorne (Anthony Trollop), and The Countryside Companion (Tom Stephenson).

To contact me, you can email me, find me on Matrix as '@samwilson:matrix.org', or the fediverse as @samwilson@wikis.world. If you want to leave a comment on this site (by creating an account), you need to know the secret code Tuart (it's not very secret, but seems to be confusing enough for most spammers).

Below are my recent blog posts.




2024-05-30

London

Despite a rather snory room-mate, I slept very well, and awoke to a cool damp (but hopefully not too wet) day. There was a large group of children running all over the breakfast room, but it turned out I was in the wrong place and that was their room — I moved to the proper place and all was quiet.


Everydoor 5

United Kingdom

https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/Zverik/diary/404188

What's New In Every Door 5

29 May 2024

now you can draw on the map! Saw an unmapped track road or a stream? Open the 4th mode in Every Door, unlock the scribble mode, choose the type and draw with your finger. This goes to a separate database, which you can then use in JOSM


2024-05-29

London


QuestyCaptcha not so great

Channel Tunnel

· MediaWiki ·

It looks like the QuestyCaptcha extension is being broken more often now, after years and years of very simple registration questions sufficing to keep spammers out. Even asking people "what site are you trying to register on" was sufficient to block spammers but didn't seem to slow down real people who were actually aware of what site they were on. Now, I guess, it's Arseficial Intelligence that's borking things. Or if it's not, then I'll still blame it. I've changed the questions a couple of times in the last few days, but they kept coming, so I've turned off registration until I have time to figure out what's the best way forward.

(I'm writing this post under the freakin' ocean, by the way.)

Static sites are better in all but two ways

Eurostar terminal, Brussels-South

· MediaWiki · hosting · archiving ·

Running your own wiki web server is great: it's cheap, gives you lots of control over the software you run and how it stores data, and pretty much makes you completely independent of how the big platforms think you should manage your stuff. The big drawback is that if you're doing it on your own then it's not a very resilient way of doing things: if you stop paying the bills, don't keep the software up to date, or poke around with a bit too much enthusiasm then things might break and your websites might go offline, never to be seen again.

So I want to make sure sites that I host are safe from those things. Mainly I do this by giving data dumps to various people (if the dumps contain sensitive information), and putting them on the Internet Archive (where they don't). Is that enough? If I found a reference to a site that was interesting, and all that was left of it was a MediaWiki XML page dump and zip file of uploaded files, would that be enough to get it back online? I think it probably would be (with the usual caveats of it not containing any user account info), and I guess I trust the WMF and the MediaWiki community to not lose track of the importance of maintaining the backwards compatibility of the XML. Of course, the wikitext used might contain things that require certain extensions, but that's probably okay. So perhaps this is a sufficient protection against future failure.

The main alternative seems to be Markdown in a Git repository, and that does have a lot of charm of resilience, simplicity, and portability. The main troubles are that it's hard to store large files and that the editing experience is pretty poor. The latter can be overlooked if a site has a dedicated nerdy editor who can help other people (and that's a good thing for sites to have), but the file storage issue can't.

It's possible to divvy up your files to Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, Internet Archive, imgur, etc. but it starts to get messy with not having everything together in one place, and there are still things that don't really belong on those other sites (for example, where would you put photos taken in the 1970s by someone you have no way of getting copyright release from?).

So I think sticking to MediaWiki on a VPS is the best way to go for now, because editing is so quick and easy and all the other issues are solved. It's just a matter of making sure the backups and dumps (those are different things, remember) are safe and distributed as much as they can be. Which does feel like a worry.

XML Friends Network

Munich

XFN versus OPML blogrolls, Ruben Schade 27 May 2024:

Open social graph tech largely withered on the vine with the promulgation of walled gardens, but the IndieWeb and Fediverse have brought them back into focus. This is fantastic! But it leads me to think whether my links would be more functional and useful as expressed on a plain HTML page with XFN data


Salzburg hbf

Salzburg

· train stations ·

I stopped briefly this morning on platform 2 of Salzburg central station, under the older cast-iron canopy, and watched a train being combined. It's nice sitting on empty platforms.


Techno Z to a cafe

Salzburg

A short cycle from the Techno_Z (the underscore is definitely part of the name, they make sure to put it on all the signs, even the municipal street sign ones) to the Heart of Joy café on Franz-Josef-Straße.


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