2023 Brownrice Internet News

It was a heckuva busy pandemic for us here at Brownrice and we thought you might be interested in some of the things that we’ve been doing behind the scenes to ensure that your web sites, webcams, email, and servers are serving up the things they serve quickly, securely, and reliably!

Data Center Upgrades

During the pandemic we grew at unprecedented speeds and as a result we upgraded nearly all of our infrastructure to keep up with our growth. We upgraded our generators, our battery systems, our solar array, our routers and switches, much of our electrical systems, our monitoring and alerting systems, our upstream internet pipes and our redundancy.

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GeoSync VPS Hosting!

We’re extremely pleased to announce our new GeoSync Cluster hosting. A GeoSync Cluster is a fully automated, three-VPS cluster of servers spread across three data centers, in three different time zones.  If one data center goes offline your web site’s traffic will be automatically redirected to the remaining data centers, ensuring no downtime.  It is the ultimate hosting platform for those seeking redundancy, reliability, and ease-of-use.

Is this GeoSync Cluster hard to use?

No!  If you are a web site user (i.e. WordPress, Joomla, custom code, etc) or developer and your web site is hosted on our GeoSync Cluster service you might actually not notice the difference between it and regular hosting.  The service is fully automated (and amazing!) and comes with managed support if issues or questions arise. 

How does it work?

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50kW of Solar Production

Our new 50kW solar parking structure has been live for a few weeks now, and WOW, we’re loving this. For a few hours each day its producing more power than our entire building is using: That includes our data center, our offices, and all lightening and cooling for Brownrice as well as THREE other businesses – one being our sister company TaosNet. Here’s a quick view our our electrical production (white arching curve) verse our usage (green squiggly line) yesterday. We anticipate that this array will produce about 66% of all of Brownrice’s electrical consumption over a year and or goal is to continue to add solar until all of our electrical usage is produced by the sun. Stay tuned, we’ll get there.

Electrical usage and consumption

Let’s Encrypt expired root (X3) certificate fix on a CentOS 6 server

First of all, many thanks to the wonderful Let’s Encrypt community for all the help with this, credit where credit is due: https://community.letsencrypt.org/t/rhel-centos-6-openssl-client-compatibility-after-dst-root-ca-x3-expiration/161032

That is a lengthy thread, and after a lot of trial and error and considerable head scratching I wanted to share the fix that worked for us, from start to finish. Hopefully it’ll save you some time so you can get back to your wgets and API calls.

Here are the steps that worked for us:

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Webcam setup howto

While we host VPS’s, email, and dedicated servers one of the most enjoyable parts of our business is our webcam hosting services. Our clients cameras literally transport us around the world, every day.

And one of our favorite webcam customer webcams is the Marshall Point Lighthouse and Museum which provides incredible views of the Maine waterfront throughout the day.

Fortunately for us, and you, Carolwood Productions, the tech team that purchased and install the Marshall Point webcam wrote up a fantastic how-to what they did, which can be found right here.

SmartVPS Generation 7 is here!

We’re pleased to announce the release of the 7th generation of our SmartVPS hosting platform. It’s been over a year in the making and we couldn’t be more satisfied with the features that come with this release, each of which make our customers hosting experience faster, more secure, and easier to use.

  • Faster PHP: PHP is now powered by PHP-FPM which is up to 30% faster than regular PHP.
  • More flexible PHP: With PHP-FPM our users can now switch PHP versions on a per-site and per-subdomain level with version changes taking immediate effect.
  • PCI Compliant: Each SmartVPS has passed a Qualsys PCI Compliance scan, which means that your organization’s path to being fully PCI Compliant just got a whole lot easier.
  • 100% faster pages with HTTP/2: Every web site on your SmartVPS will get an immediate speed boost with HTTP/2. Depending on how your web site’s code is written page speeds can increase by up to 100% with HTTP/2.
  • Even more secure with HSTS: HSTS creates another layer of security between your web site and your visitor’s web browser and prevents web site spoofing attacks. HSTS is now enabled be default.
  • Optane SSD caching means its all even faster: Our SmartVPSs run on PCIe SSDs, which are already four times faster than normal SSDs, and now we’ve added Optane SSD drives for OS caching. Its more speed on top of speed for your entire server.

And of course all of our earlier generation SmartVPS features have been baked into these new servers so you won’t miss a feature. Oh yeah, and you get all of this for $7.95 per month.


Managed PHP 7.3 Hosting

Update:  New SmartVPSs that are spun up on Brownrice servers are now being packaged with PHP 7.3.0. Some benchmarks claim that PHP 7.3 is 12% faster than PHP 7.2 and over 50% faster than PHP 5.6.  

WordPress sites are compatible with PHP 7.3 (unless you’ve got some funky customizations or out-of-date plugins of course.) 

If you are an existing SmartVPS customer and want to be upgraded just shoot us an email and we’ll make it happen.

New (and free!) webcam features

Here are a few new features we’ve recently added to our webcam streaming accounts, all of which are totally free:

  • Sign up for email alerts when we can’t reach your cameras.
    • Want to know when your camera goes down?  Then turn this option on and we’ll email you if we can’t reach your webcam after 30 minutes. 
  • Replace all overlay logos and links yourself.
    • You can now login to the dashboard and add, remove, and replace all of the logos that are overlayed on your video player without contacting us to do it for you. Also, you can update the links that people are sent to when they click on those logos.  These overlay logos are great ways to generate advertising revenue.
  • Define custom video player aspect ratios.
    • If your webcam player currently has black bars on the sides or top and bottom of the video you can now change the aspect ratio of the player (by default its 16:9) to remove those bars and have your video fit snugly inside of the player.
  • Restrict playback of your webcams to only web site addresses that you allow.
    • While most of our customers want their webcams embedded in as many sites as possible, some want to restrict playback to certain URL’s.  You can now define a list of addresses that are allowed to play your video in the dashboard.  By default we don’t restrict playback.
  • The monthly webcam analytics emailer.
    • You’ve received these, right?  On the first of every month we send you viewer numbers, camera status, and how many recordings and time-lapse videos are waiting for you to view in the dashboard.  Remember that time-lapses are created every night and are great and easy to share on social media.

All of these changes are accessible by logging into https://dashboard.brownrice.com and then clicking -> Streaming -> camera Manage -> Camera Settings.

More improvements are coming soon but in the meantime check out our webcam FAQ which will show you many of the great things you can do with your streaming account: https://support.brownrice.com/category/6/web-cams.html