For the most part, I'm back in business, or at least able to start getting back.
Recap: Last Monday, the Cable TV company here in Burnsville, North Carolina was taken over by new owners, and I found out that I couldn't use ssh to log in to the Telecom Digest's home machine, which is in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The new CableCo turned out to have very bad customer service, and even worse salesmen: I got hung (hanged?) up on four or five times, even while asking them to quote a price to remove the block.
I tried the free version of ProtonVPN, without success, and I'll get back to that.
A long-time reader told me that I could get an "Shell In A Box" account from Panix in New York, and I was able to log in to the Telecom Digest server by using one of Panix's web-based shell interfaces. There were some glitches, but nothing serious: the web browser wouldn't pass through the Cntl-N and Cntl-W commands I'm used to using for the-one-true-editor, but I got a digest out and started planning how I would avoid the situation I was in, going forward.
I got a call from Alexis Rosen, the owner of Panix, who told me that they verify every new account, since they'd had some users who signed up with stolen credit cards and sent spam until they were found out and kicked out.
It turns out that Panix will allow ssh on port 443, which is usually used for https traffic, and so Alexis said I could tunnel port 22 over to the TD server, using port 443 to get past the port blocking at the new Cableco.
So, with my Panix options available, I decided to back up the back up: along about Thursday, I paid ProtonVPN the $10 to get their "plus" service, which will allow port forwarding, and found that I could then log into TD central without needing to use a browser, which simplified operation a lot.
I got a call back from the office of the Governor or North Carolina, which is the place I had called on Monday to ask if the state regulates Internet Service Providers. I had left the message with the "Press" office, which I'm still amazed I'm entitled to use, but it took a while to get a call back. I was talking to a state employee about the problem with ssh blocking, and I realized, during the call, while I was trying to duplicate the original failure messages, that port 22 wasn't blocked anymore.
It's amazing how things just sort of happen during an election year, you know? I don't know if, or who made the call, or anything, but I left a message and ssh started working again.
Now, here's the backstory you haven't heard before:
The Telecom Digest was using a version of Ubuntu Linux which is no longer supported, so our benefactors at CSAIL, which is the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at M.I.T., had created a new virtual machine for us, with Ubuntu 22.04 loaded on it, and had just told me that machine was ready to use when CableCo cut my cord.
I had hoped that being able to log in to the new machine would allow for a smooth transition from the old server to the new one, but I fat-fingered something and put the old machine off-line. Sigh.
CSAIL is a busy place, and we're guests there, so I try to not bother them with small stuff. This, however, was flat-on serious: I had broken the old machine, and the solution that was decided on was to move the data over to the new server, and shut the old one down. Ergo, there I was, trying to remember how to install Apache2 and PHP and maybe even MySQL: in other words, I wanted a LAMP server, so that I could install WordPress and (hopefully) use it as a Content Management System and streamline some of the Digest's processes and backups and other stuff.
Well, the new server turned out to be really good at delivering error messages: I had found a LAMP HOWTO and was on the first step - updating the existing software - when the machine kicked out several pages of warning about things being defined in more than one place and lots of other stuff I had never - or at least, never remembered - seeing before.
I bit the bullet and put on the sackcloth and the ashes and the Dunce cap, and asked CSAIL to provide help. It's the weekend, of course, and I really do try to be a good guest, so there might be something in a day or two, but I can't push them.
So, we've moved, temporarily, to a virtual host in the server I rent from prgmr.com, and use for testing TD updates and ideas, for my blog, for a WordPress instance, and various other projects and volunteer activities: telecomdigest.net. I'm doing things manually that I had semi-automated on the "old" machine, and that's just the way it is for now, so I'll ask your help and your patience while I navigate my way back to being comfortable between my current rock and my waiting-for-Godot hard place.
My profound thanks to my long-time reader who recommended Panix and helped me to set it up, but who asked to remain anonymous, to Garrett Wollman of CSAIL, and to John Levine, who handles our email spam detection and other essential things at Taughannock Networks, and to Alexis Rosen at Panix: they all put up with a newly minted septuagenarian who knows too much about Mother Bell and too little about getting along with others.