Getting a home website running on Bell, plus some site history

If you’re reading this, then you know I have a home website, with some of my older music output and this blog. I also have a handful of other unpublicized properties (a wiki, a private cloud, etc.) running on the same hardware. Many of these have been up for a *long* time in internet years: The first Wayback Machine snapshot I could find was from 2006, but the first post on the blog is actually from March 2005.

Over the lifespan of the site, I have changed the hardware it’s hosted on several times from a Mac G5 tower, to a first generation Mac mini, to an iMac, to a 4Gig Raspberry Pi, and finally to its current home on an 8Gig Pi. I have also switched internet providers multiple times: Bell, Rogers, Bell, TekSavvy, and now back to Bell. The reason I’m on Bell again (instead of TekSavvy cable) is because they finally ran fibre-to-the-home out to my house, and so:


I have been avoiding Bell for a while because OOTB Bell home internet service blocks incoming access to http, which makes any website you run at home inaccessible from the internet at large. Really, this is just a cash grab from Bell, since they will happily let the traffic through if you have a business account, at many times the cost. The truth is, I don’t run a business from my home, I just have a personal website that gets its traffic from family and a handful of friends.

What’s worse, Bell where I live doesn’t even want to admit they filter the incoming traffic. When I went through first and second level tech support, the people involved took forever to understand the question, then said that they were sure that nothing was filtered. After paying for “expert” Bell tech support and spending an hour getting them to understand what I was asking, the response was effectively “That’s just how we do it; there’s no way to change it”.

If anyone else hits a wall when attempting to get Bell to admit they filter traffic, here is a link that might be useful:

Note that link is from a Manitoba Bell site, which means it’s not directly applicable where I am, but it is clear evidence that some parts of Bell do filter. In case, the page gets taken down, here’s the salient section:

Filtered Ports

Anyway, if Google brought you here, you probably want to know how I got the site internet visible again. The solution I found works, but is definitely a bit of a hack. What I did was tell the Bell modem to put my home router in the DMZ. This is perhaps not great security wise, but really it’s basically the same situation as when I was running on TekSavvy.

The next step was to tell my home router to connect via PPPoE. This gets the router its own connection to Bell, which bypasses the port blocking. To do this, you need your modem account and password. That information you can get from the “My Bell” website on the details page for your internet service. You can’t actually get your password (of course), but you can reset it to a new value and then use that.

Running a PPPoE connection is presumably costing me performance, but given that my internal wiring and switches are all gigabit (for now, at least!), I’m still getting close to the theoretical maximum to my machines. Here’s what I see on my home Mac:

And so all is right with the world again. 馃檪 Note that there is still the added wrinkle that I need to run a DynDNS client to keep pointing at the PPPoE connection, but that’s not a new problem.

Site news (again)

So, I realized my last post was probably a bit confusing. The reason I was seeing issues with my older posts was that I had moved them to a new WordPress install because, as it happens, I have once again moved GCW to a new machine. This time, it’s another Raspberry Pi, but this new install has a few nice things going for it:

  1. It’s an 8Gig model. I don’t actually believe I need that much space to run a web server most of the time, but I am running quite a few web apps on it now, and depending on what was going on, I was seeing some peaks on the 4Gig one that were pushing into swap.
  2. It’s a brand new, fresh install on SSD. The old one was still running off a MicroSD card, with the website content stored on a separate SSD. Although this gave me lots of storage for the website, it meant that the install was just that tiny bit more complex than a standard one, so I was forever fiddling with it when updating, etc.
  3. It’s even smaller! I love the size of the finished result. Here’s a picture to give you the idea. Note the size of the ethernet jack on the side for scale.

This time around, I’ve only got 500Gig of storage for the whole install including the website, but I’m no where near hitting that limit yet, so I’m very happy.

Test post

Most of my older posts seem to have extended entries for the titles. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I suspect it’s a side-effect of one too many export/imports. Something to figure out eventually.

Update: I managed to turn it off by hiding post abstracts. I’m not sure why this suddenly started happening however. Hm…

That’s better.

So take a look at this…

I apparently have joined the big leagues, although it’s a bit too early to say for sure. The ping time isn’t great, but I guess it will be good enough. For comparison, here’s what I had before the upgrade:

Ping: 4ms
Down 47.5
Up: 10.4

I’ve tried GeForce Now and it’s like night and day. The game looks basically like it’s running locally now.

As you can see from this post, GCW transferred over seamlessly too.

Now, let’s try some MMOs… 馃檪


I have set the blog to require registration before you can comment. Apologies. It’s an experiment to see if this will help me manage the egregious amounts of spam I’m getting (even with akismet’s help). If it doesn’t help I’ll turn it off again, but to give you some context, in 12 hours I received 17 pages of spam!


I decided I wanted to be able to log in and post from outside my home network, and using vanilla http to do that while running on unencrypted wifi at the coffee shop was just asking for trouble.

Thankfully, Let’s Encrypt has made setting up https on your site both easy and, more importantly, free!

The “wonders” of how my old install of WP was set up has meant that older posts may still have bogus links in them, but on the front page (and going forward) at least, you now see:


GCW gets a new home

After many years of running Great Castle Wilson on some flavour of Mac, I’ve finally decided to give it dedicated hardware of its own. In part, this is because I enjoy proving to myself that I can still set up and configure a webserver and all the other required accoutrements — yes, I’m weird like that — but mostly it’s because I’m fairly confident that macOS Catalina is going to break my current configuration anyway, so it seemed like a good time to make a change.

For those who aren’t aware, Catalina is the first version of macOS that only supports 64-bit applications. There are some fairly significant changes under the covers, and the odds are low that my personal mix of random open source software and existing Mac tech is going to continue to work.

So without further ado, here is the brand new GCW:

Yep, it’s a Pi 馃檪


So far the setup process has been relatively painless, but I did learn that WordPress does *not* like it when its API URL points at a different instance of WordPress than the one that’s making the request — that took a couple of hours to debug. 馃檪

Anyway, if you can read this, then we’re live. The site seems quite responsive and the only posts that aren’t displaying properly are ones where some of the original content they linked to no longer exists


Some history…

I don’t post to NfGCW very often any more, but I love the fact that there’s years of history from our family here. I’ve blogged about many topics over the years, including the site itself. Here are some previous posts about the hardware GCW ran on.


I realize the site has been down for a couple of days. Things continue to be quite complex/random here. Thanks to those who let me know. Apologies again for the downtime.

I realize the site has been down for a couple of days. Things continue to be quite complex/random here.

Thanks to those who let me know. Apologies again for the downtime.