35 Years of Mt. St. Helens

This one is a bit of a rambling reflection on a volcano with which I’ve always felt a strong connection.

tetonsThe little kid crouching down in that photograph to the right is me, not quite four years old, on a trip with my family to the Grand Tetons. I was more interested in the rocks and minerals of the gravel road the rest of my brothers and father stood on while posing for the picture. I’m still captivated by the treasures that sit beneath our feet.

It was May 18, 1980, 8:32am on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning, when David Johnston, a geologist stationed on a hillside facing Mt. St. Helens, excitedly radioed in to the geological headquarters 100 miles away, “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!” Moments later, Johnston lost his life doing what he loved most: Following the events of this giant mountain, once dormant, and which had roared back to life before his eyes. He was one of 57 who perished that day.

oregonian1At the time, I was not yet five years old, living some 200 miles south in Oregon. I remember the excitement surrounding its murmurings as it slowly awakened.

Over the months, it had belched bits of steam and ash. Earthquakes had increased. The news covered its unfolding events with each passing day. It was almost surreal when, that Sunday morning, I learned of the news that it had erupted. I watched my brother place a large, plastic lid on the hood of the family station wagon, and hours later note that ash had collected on it.

After a few hours, the ash was falling everywhere. In three days, it would circle the planet. The eastern portion of Washington state was placed into a near apocalyptic nuclear winter. The sun blotched from the sky, pitch black in the middle of the day, ash everywhere, surgical masks the only way to safely breathe in the ash-filled air.

Following the eruption, the local newspaper published a special section on St. Helens. I still have the crinkly old pages.

In 1988, while visiting my grandmother’s house in McMinnville, my family helped clean her house and outdoor garage. We were surprised to find plenty of ash still in the gutters.

ashI still have an old, glass Bayer aspirin jar that we filled with the ash from that day. It sits in a cabinet of my living room, next to a small jar of ash my son acquired on a recent trip up to the volcano.

Volcanoes have always been a part of my life. Growing up in the valleys of the Pacific Northwest, it’s something we accept as normal. No matter where you live, there’s a dormant volcano at most, an hour or two away. They serve as a powerful reminder, most often quiet, sometimes ferocious and terrifying, of the power of nature and the fact we are interconnected with a planet that keeps its own time and agenda.

The quiet resolve and strength of these monuments are in part why I settled on mountains as a naming convention for Canvas Host’s web servers. We never use a mountain name twice, partly for security but also out of respect for the identity of the name itself. At one time, installed in our cabinets was a server named Loowit, a Native American name for a maiden whose spirit was believed to have been transformed into what the Western worlds calls Mount St. Helens. It’s a typical love triangle, really — Loowit was sought after by competing suitors. The gods had had it, and turned them into what we know as Mount Hood and Mount Adams. No matter what you believe, the stories of these majestic peaks are pervasive throughout Northwest culture. Each time we install a new web server, we pay tribute to our culture and history.

st-helens-8.5.2005

A photo I took of a simmering Mt. St. Helens during an August 5, 2005 visit to the Johnston Ridge Observatory

In recent years, Mt. St. Helens has shown signs of returning to life once more. From 2004 to 2008, it rumbled, spewed ash, and built up several new lava domes within its crater. At one time, they were growing by three dump trucks full of magma each second. Small quakes persist, and it appears magma levels are beginning to rise once more within the volcano’s depths. From the Johnston Ridge Observatory, built on the site where David Johnston once stood, visitors can see straight into the mouth of the volcano. If you’ve never visited the area, I highly recommend it. The journey is worth it, with more than a dozen excellent parks, visitor centers, trail heads, and primitive camping sites where adventurers and families of all types can learn and enjoy the raw beauty of nature.

– David Anderson


“DomainGate”: On Carly Fiorina and Domain Squatting

Has Carly Fiorina’s campaign secured all the good domains? If you arrived here by typing www.CarlyFiorina.FAIL into your web browser, I guess you have your answer.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO whose campaign earlier this month announced her bid for Republican Party Presidential Candidate, was briefly distracted when it was brought to light they had failed to secure the domain, carlyfiorina.org. That domain redirects to a one-page website with a simple message:

Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain. So I’m using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard. It was this many:

That message was followed by 30,000 :( emoticons.

In her time at HP, Fiorina certainly made many difficult decisions, as do all company owners, and she oversaw up a merger that resulted in the layoffs of 30,000 HP employees. That type of sweeping decision has the power to cripple one’s future political aspirations, especially when so carefully deconstructed with a simple page full of frowny faces. If that’s how Fiorina treats loyal employees, what does she really think about those potential, loyal voters?

When asked by interviewers about the carlyfiorina.org website, Fiorina responded by registering sethmeyers.org and chucktodd.org, which now redirect to her campaign’s website. This tactic is known as cybersquatting, or domain squatting. For company names and trademarks, the practice can lead to trademark infringement lawsuits. In the political arena, however, where one’s privacy is thrown out the window as soon as they jump into the public arena, it’s more of a free-for-all. Oh, so you wanted that domain? Maybe you should have registered it before I did. By registering sethmeyers.org and chucktodd.org, Fiorina demonstrated for about $25 what can happen in the online political landscape.

And thus began #DomainGate — the latest tactic by campaigns to use domain names for political advantage. Just as ad space, radio time, and TV spots were in the 80’s and 90’s, today’s political space is more about domain names with brand quality and high SEO rank (search engine optimization), the relative ease by which to promote a domain in search engines.

Unlike the domain scape of previous decades with .COM, .NET, and .ORG, today’s market offers hundreds of top-level domains, such as .PARTY, .ROCKS, and .SOCIAL. It’s easier than ever to secure a quality domain, like CarlyFiorina.Republican, as the campaign registered. This adds to the complexity of DomainGate. No longer is it about securing a handful of domains. Now it’s more than 300 potential domains per phrase. If you add CarlyForPresident.___, VoteCarly.___, and Fiorina2016.___, you’ve just added an additional 900 possible domain names you might need register to pre-empt your critics.

If you’re running a political campaign and employ tactics like domain squatting, it can be a risky game. Does Fiorina really need the domain sethmeyers.org to bolster her run for President? Is she going to register domains in mockery of every person who questions her? Is that what she wants the online world to think about her?

A sample of the 200+ domains still available using just the candidate’s name, include carlyfiorina.video, carlyfiorina.sale, carlyfiorina.social, and carlyfiorina.reviews. You can search for a complete list on our website, at http://www.canvas.domains.

When I look at the details surrounding DomainGate, I’m reminded it’s nothing more than a simple exercise in registering as many domains as one can and potentially hijacking another person’s online identity for your own gain. At best, it’s a temporary distraction from the fact that this all started because a single domain was used to share a detail from Fiorina’s past.

Domain squatting can work against you. Don’t forget, out there are 30,000 workers, many with families, who lost their jobs with Fiorina as HP’s leader. I wonder what might happen if even a handful of them took to blogging using those hundreds of available carlyfiorina.___ domains. Now wouldn’t that be a spin on DomainGate?

– David Anderson


Andvari, our first web server: A small machine with big dreams

Andvari, our first self-hosted web server.All dreams begin with that spark of inspiration. Ten years ago, our company embraced that spark.

For several years leading up to that moment, we’d leased servers from large, national hosting providers, and while the quality of service was “okay”, we foresaw needed to bring those services in-house, closer to our community and local to our staff, so we could offer better and more personalized service to our customers.

The following months saw a coordinated effort on both sides of the Atlantic. The result was a first-and-only-of-its-kind server that we affectionately named, Andvari. Built in Edinburgh, Scotland, flown across the ocean to Oregon, tested and secured, this first server was ready for a home.

From Norse mythology, Andvari was a small creature who lived in a cave below a giant waterfall and from that secret place, gathered all the world’s wealth through a ring of power. We weren’t entirely deluded with grandeur in choosing that name; Rather, we loved the idea of a big success starting with a small idea. In so many ways, Andvari lived up to that idea and proved so much more.

In 2005, server technology was quite a bit more limited than what we have come to expect in today’s world. Still, it was powerful in its own right, hosting close to 200 customer websites with dependable service that rarely experienced any interruption.

andvari1

In subsequent months, we would build out a colocation space at the Pittock Block in downtown Portland, Oregon, and continue adding to Andvari’s “wealth” with additional servers and equipment. Ten years later and with 120+ web servers, almost 100 virtual private servers, and thousands of shared hosting customers, Canvas Host is still driven by that inspiration that launched us forward into this venture.

andvari3This past weekend, I stumbled upon a perfect display case for Andvari. I’d been seeking one for ages, and there it was Friday on Craigslist. Though the server has been offline for many years and had been collecting some dust surrounded by newer (and yet end-of-lifed) peers, I finally found the best way to represent this trusty, sturdy little server that gave us our start.

And so there is Andvari now in our office entry, encased proudly for all to see. While our mission is certainly not to collect all the world’s wealth, it certainly is our mission to help our clients achieve success however they define it.

Thank you, Andvari, for being that spark. You’re not in a cave any more, not tucked away on a dark server rack, and definitely not forgotten at the back of a dusty closet. Nope, you’re now proudly in the spotlight to be seen by every single customer that walks through our doors. Well done!

– David Anderson, Owner



New WordPress 4.2 vulnerability: Update to 4.2.1 now!

A WordPress 4.2 vulnerability has been discovered. A new patch, 4.2.1, has just been released. All WordPress users are advised to update immediately.

The issue had to do with a cross-site scripting vulnerability and related to Comments. If a user had previously been given permissions to post comments,

According to Jouko Pynnönen, who discovered the vulnerability, “An unauthenticated attacker can inject JavaScript in WordPress comments. The script is triggered when the comment is viewed.”

For more information, please see WordPress’ official release notes about the vulnerability and the 4.2.1 update:
https://wordpress.org/news/2015/04/wordpress-4-2-1/

The original notes from Jouko Pynnönen may be found here:
http://klikki.fi/adv/wordpress2.html