Why still run a VPS ?

Why do I bother run my own Virtual Private Server (VPS)?

I do ask myself why I still bother with running a VPS on IONOS. I no longer have a business to run, so the old web pages are an archive now. I thought old URLs should never die (*).

I am often tempted to shut the VPS down and use email only service providers. They seem to be as expensive, even more than running as VPS that can run the email. I need 50Gb for each email box. Emails are a useful personal archive; ours goes back to 1992.

Running an email server on a VPS can be problematic. Both Google and Microsoft impose their email server monopoly on security grounds. Rarely they have blocked whole swathes of Internet Service Provider’s addresses, with no notice or explanation. I assume just one of the ISP’s customers has been naughty by sending out spam. It can take a day of two to get unblocked from these secret blacklists. I hope I have not jinxed it but the last such episode blocking email was over a year ago. This big-boys IP blocking was never reported by blacklisting sites such as MX toolbox. One needs to avoid getting on any blacklist lists so chose ISP carefully. Set up SPF DMARC DKIM and even DNSEC. All would be quite fiddly if it was not for the likes of PLESK to set up and control your VPS.

Plesk is very expensive when sold as a stand-alone, personal purchase, but cheap when it is part of the ISP VPS package. Always buy with a VPS server with cPanel or Plesk.

What do I still use VPS for?

1. EMAIL The advantage of running an email is you are your own man in the middle, your data is not being mined. You are in control and back up. I spoil the lack of data mining by having my google Gmail account pop read all the incoming emails. Searching of email is so much faster and intelligent with Gmail than directly searching on the server or Outlook. Gmail then is one of the backups. I also backup the entire server and settings to Dropbox. Tight fail2ban rules are essential for email servers and PLESK sets that up easily.

2. A Virtual Private Network VPN when abroad keeping a UK IP address is very useful. To use a VPS as a VPN is a cost saving, as a commercail VPN service can cost as much as a VPS, but you can do more with a VPS. The VPS’s IP is not recognised as a likely VPN address and has never been blocked as being from abroad; the IP address does not belong to any of the major VPN providers. Again, you are not being mined, logged or surveyed with your own. I use Softethervpn on the servers and Raspberry Pis as it is so much easier to set up and can use OpenVPN. Softethervpn even makes a client OpenVPN script to do so. Beware VPNs do not route IPv6 well, so to ensure that seen to be a UK address turn off IPv6 on your PC when abroad.

3. SSH tunnels and reverse tunnels. Some of my projects have no inbound route (say they are on 4g). Using autossh on the remote site will open a port on the server to connect to the remote site to use for anything, including VPN connections. SSH needs care: I change the default port number of SSH, run fail2ban and of certificate only, no password logins are allowed.

4. SOCAT. This is a useful programme if you want to reach the fixed IPv6 address from IPv4. One of my places has no fixed IPv4, no route from the internet (CGNAT) but has IPv6 allocation. Opening IPv6 pinholes on that router I can can access multiple devices from the internet, even using the same port number, at the remote site. Alas, some business networks, hotels and phones are still not routing IPv6. So I need to direct the request to a VPS server port, and the configured SOCAT will read IPv4 and forward on to the remote reachable IPv6 address.

5. Web Server. Setting up web pages. Social media has reduced the need to have a vanity domain and web pages as I set up long ago. For email alone one needs to get a proper a wildcard SSL certificate. You can then use that certificate on any machine (some are RaspberryPis) once using by the same domain or subdomain. Plesk makes setting all this up easier.

6. Frame forwarding. One can set up a subdomain and the point to a port to the server which is connected to a website elsewhere (such as a raspberry Pi) eg https://yell.bulger.co.uk is frame forwarded to a port on the VPS which has been autossh connected by the raspberry Pi in Shetland.

7. Never run TOR on a personal VPS server!


*Old URLs should never die, expect in Australia.  If a business stops trading or reduces to itself such that it no longer has an business number (ABN), then the domain .com.au have to be deleted by the registrar, along with email and contacts.   This is quite nuts.

Junk is stuff in the wrong place

I was back down working in the Falklands in 2020. Behind the house was a yard with local TV tower with assorted radio junk scattered about. I was sure cared for and some is in locked containers, perhaps to be shipped back one day. It belongs to KTV Falklands Digital Channel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KTV_Ltd. Later of course once out of Covid isolation, I met its owner Mario, VP8EME. In such Isolation, with no RS store or Amazon to deliver the next day, he needs to keep stuff.

To any amateur radio operator this would have seemed mouth watering stuff. Rows of parabolic dishes, some with various transponders still attached. Then power supplies, heat sinks, cables.

I suspect the reason for apparent discarding is that there now decent internet here via satellite, 4g mobile phones, a few free TV stations and more if you pay a fee to KTV. So individual dishes are no longer needed. There are issues with the local telecoms monopoly…even bringing down your out Satellite Phone with data is illegal, let alone setting up your own satellite data dish. All about those problems and more is on https://openfalklands.com

Upgrades to the telephone system filled the yard with even more stuff. BAS seems to have left a container here once used for HF coms.

Enough here to build a few antenna towers. Then there coils of fat low loss coax piled up. I assume too expensive to ship any of it back to the UK so it sits here waiting to be used, but I imagine the next project here would bring in new materials. This stuff is the wrong place. I assumed parts would be used and appreciated by many back home.

In memoriam: Looking at some of the old kit I appreciated the work and engineering involved in creating it within the last 30 years. Unless you build a cathedral everything we do is ephemeral. Much of this was so beautifully made with professional screening of parts, solid aluminium casing. A lot of thought and brain power, time and care went into each part, now not used. A graveyard of effort. Some of the boards have rows for Z80 chips which were used until quite recently, even a 555s.

Then I realised that even for hams and electronic enthusiasts little of all this is of use to us nowadays. It’s frankly simpler to write line of code into a computer than it is to make stuff. So we use the internal complexity of millions of transistors in a PC chip to achieve something that could be achieved in “simpler” manner by old school working.

Waveform Old school with op amps and 555 chips

But the old school in inflexible. Once made with wires and components it does its one thing. A Raspberry pi is cheap and light. Make an error reformat and start again. Reliable too. I had one doing its thing as router/VPN for over year without a reboot.

Some of this stuff here could be used for interfacing, a PC’s output need to attach to something in the end.


Doctors Cause Crime

Prison Healthcare

There has an exponential in the use of gabapentin and pregabalin medication amongst prisoners over the last decade. These drugs are now almost exclusively used by those with other dependencies in prisons. During this time of increasing use of these gabapentinoids and other prescribed medications, we saw seeing an increase of violence in prisons. This violence may not be due to illicit Spice use and the past reductions in the number of security staff.

I am the suspicious that us doctors may not be doing any good. Doctors do not have any medication to treat crime, but our best of intentions may now be causing criminal side effects.

Many of my prisoner patients have recognised themselves in the following scenario:

You have a criminal tendency, making you feel nervous, or you may have heroin habit, whereby you have to “find” £100+ a day for that. This make you very nervous, an anxiety state. You go to your kind GP who gives you diazepam at least, but clonazepam is your preferred benzo choice (10x more potent). You now feel relaxed and invulnerable. You feel better inside yourself, but you are now worse to others.  Relaxed you can thieve more. Then there is that paradoxical aggression these medications give, so that knife you have with you is now more likely to be used. Of course you prefer the similar effects given by the gabapentinoids, the new benzos, which you can seek for that old ankle fracture and back pain. Gabapentinoids can give a high on their own, make heroin highs better and cheaper, and any spare capsules can be sold on.

Your life is now a mess, and you feel grief, guilt and remorse. These are uncomfortable sensations, which should protect you from more damaging high-risk behaviour. These feelings are depressing and annoying. Your GP now adds in an SSRI for your “depression”, but you may seek Mirtazapine, as you cannot sleep (perhaps partly caused by the cocaine), and you may want a bit of weight on. The anti-depressant detaches you from your emotions (that’s partly how they work in depression), releasing you from guilt and remorse.  

You now have ideas that others do not like you, you have no insight as to why that is so. Your mood swings are violent, disinhibited, so now you now have added quetiapine or olanzapine to the cocktail. These major tranquilisers were designed to stop the overthinking in a psychosis and schizophrenia, but here the tranquilisers block thought, further imagination and hope and they also make you fatter.

With this concoction of these prescribed medications you now are free of anxiety, grief, guilt, remorse and hope. You are detached and have no feelings for others. You now have full blown Iatrogenic Antisocial Personality Disorder with multiple convictions.

Weight goes on and on, blood sugar rises. You are now diabetic.

Full latest prison blog is here


More of the pointless NHS Administration

Most of the boxes are NHS related 1993-2008

I have added back an archive of NHS Commissioning documents based in Hertfordshire, 1999-2008.

Perhaps someone will copy and paste some of the old documents for yet another new project, as all has been done before under different names.  Family health Authorities, Regional Health Authorities, Area Health Authorities. Primary Care Trusts. Practice Based Commissioning Groups, and now Clinical Commissioning Groups.  It’s pointless.

All NHS reforms do is play musical chairs.  No reform dares start on the basis that these functions are simply not needed. They are moved to different named bodies.

I have worked in Australia where these layers of NHS administration simply do not exist, despite the fact that Australia is considered to be over governed.


Part of the Achive


Shared Care Records Flawed. Wasted my time too

Shared Clinical Records Fallacies and its waste of time


Some of the work being binned and shredded

I am clearing out paperwork at our old office.  This pile is some of the work I did for NPIT and then CfH, Connecting for Health, the UK health service plan for a single NHS record.  It cost billions. It failed.

Although I got reimbursed for some of my time on committees this was such a waste of time and I knew it.  I was not popular as never liked the concept of a single health records anyway, and detested the idea that Government should write software.  The Government’s agenda and civil service procurement contracts were so precise that it was as if they were writing code.

The main effect, indeed aim at the time, was to kill off multiple medical UK IT businesses.   Only four primary care system survived. NHS bureaucracy believed that it would be so much better if there was only one system, one supplier in the NHS.  The next best option, as far as they were concerned, was that systems should all look and behave in the same way.  The result is that the fast and innovative clinical systems we had have become stuck in aspic.  The drive to innovate, to compete was killed off by the pressure and time needed for government conformance.  Little attention paid to what doctors, nurses or for that matter what a patient might need.  The systems in use now are slower and much less ergonomic than the medical system in place in the late 1990s.  Most UK GPs had systems on their desks by then because they saved time and created legible scripts and records.   Now systems slow down consultations and act as a barrier between doctor and patient. The doctor has to glare at the screen point a mouse at a tiny icon.

Fallacies of a single record

1 “It saves so much money and time, and improves patient safety if there was a single system and NHS record”    Not true.   A single record lead to sloppy thinking and lazy doctors.  The patient is a day older.  The past record is just as likely to bias you in the wrong direction by what was written the past.   There is likely to be something new.  Take a history and examine the patient. It works every time!  This is especially true in an emergency situation.  Junior doctors should be forbidden to look at old records for 48 hours.

In the UK GPs can have access to records (paper for the most part) going back to 1927 as the records follow you around.  When working in Australia there is no such thing, and lo! to my surprise I did not miss the records clinically.  As a matter of prurience I might have.  When I told and Australian patient of GP UK record access she said that would a be gross invasion of her privacy.  She had a point.

2 “But we must know if a patient is allergic” .    If only recording allergy was that simple.  Most people who report that they are penicillin allergic are not.  A patient may report that she felt upset on that green pill, so not unreasonably the GP puts on his record allergy to green pill, so now the system will almost block the GP annoying the patient when attempting to prescribe green and related hues in the future.  Alas a hospital will interpret that to mean the patient will collapse with anaphalaxis to green pills.  To avoid this the GP now needs to record green pill allergy in greater detail, more than the patient nor he needs in his practice.  Detailing what was reaction, what type, intolerance of allergy, rash, urticaria, wheezing and so on and on.  It may need a tree of many codes to describe the reaction and how serious. It is so tedious that it is left.  But this coding dilemma occurs with recording of almost any disease. Heath Data has fractual properties, like the length of the coast of Britain, seemingly approaching infinity once you draw round each pebble or then grain of sand.   The level of detail you need to record depends on your need in front of the patient, its use to you, the patient and locality.

3  That leads onto the provenance of data.  Where is comes from has a huge effect on its meaning.  A nurse may find a patient confused, so she might record dementia on her system (it might even be recorded as Alzheimer’s).  For her work that all she needs to do to remind her.  However this could be any different type or dementia, or even psychological, dementia-precox (psychosis). Who and when was the data entered changes its meaning, and then who can correct it should it turned out to be a toxic confusional state.  Correcting data entered by others is a minefield in shared records.   A GP may record heart failure, but a Cardiologist may need to know what type, or worse it has since resolved and is still there on the record.

4  “Clinical systems can improve safety by warning doctors of interactions of patients other disease and between drugs”.   Unfortunately the fear of being sued by suppliers for failure to provide warnings, means that the most idiotic warnings pop up.  Such as in treating blood pressure: “Adding X with Y will cause BP to fall”…. YES that is what I want!  No intelligence in offering up these warnings which are so frequent, so minor, or that the risks are already fully understood beforehand, that doctors simply flash past all warnings as they are wasting time, in doing so increasing the risk a genuine high risk warning will be missed.  This is true for current systems and would be worse if there was a central record as that has to be designed for the most junior nurse doctor or admin clerk.


Solution.  Competing Systems: Healthcare Secure Search Engine.

Keep encouraging different systems.  The can use common coding systems as they do now. They can work differently, have different interfaces functions and innovate.

When a patient is seen at a different place, such as at hospital, an authorised doctor should be able to do a search of all NHS records within date ranges or selected places, to create a new record.  Preferably a day later.  This NHS search engine would be secured with two factor authentication or more, with swipe card; the patient notified that such a search was made and by whom and when.

That way provenance of each item is clear.  There would be no need to create a single record.  There is the NHS spine record, but it is only a summary with few details, and keeping it in sync with GP records is not easy.

Connecting for Heath was doomed.  Its premise was wrong, but those concepts and wish for a single patient record still come up. It still a dream of civil servants everywhere.  It is not needed and it kills innovation in healthcare computing.   Without NHS meddling we would now have slicker, faster, even tablet based clinical systems by now. More patients could be seen in less time.

Gerard Bulger

PS if you invent such a search engine I will need 5% stake in it.








Using Satellite Slow Connections, Reducing cost.


I have just revised my blogs on keeping internet costs down with narrow expensive connections. Its still rather longwinded, so here is a summary!

All  gadget providers now believe that every one has unfettered access to broadband.  Alas there was still part of the world where that is expensive or does not exist, and those of us forced to use Satellite communications from the field have big problems.  The costs are so high an update would break the bank. We cannot control what out phones and PCs do in the background.

My solution was to make sure that anything I plugged into the satellite device/route never knows the route to the internet.  I set them so that there was only one route in the IP tables, the route via the satellite to a proxy server.  Then I used another browsers such as Opera or Sea Monkey as they have email clients.  These browsers can set their own connections via a proxy server independent of the operating system, so nothing else can connect to the internet.

This is detailed on https://bulger.co.uk/satellitecost.htm

other ideas to reduce costs on satellite are here https://bulger.co.uk/satellitecost2.htm



Revising the Web pages

Once we had various businesses such as the doctor’s surgery in Bovingdon, the Fundholders’ Support Agency and Archway Development and Consulting. In those days then having a web space made sense.

But a personal space,  which is what this has since become, is much less necessary now that Facebook and the rest has taken over any need for a vanity sites.

I think I will keep the website going and add my thoughts, partly because old URLs should never die!   Also I feel slightly more in control.  I am not alone with that thought. If I hit delete.  It’s gone.