Category Archives: Internet

General articles and posts relating to the Internet.

The Internet’s Completely Over

No more Internet

The Internet's Completely Over!
Potential Safety Hazard!

I’m not one of those types to make bold wide-sweeping predictions and I try my best not to use absolutes in my day to day conversations. To put it plainly the world can be an unpredictable place and you should never say never. But something has come up and I think I’m safe in offering my prediction.

“The Internet’s completely over.” No wait, that’s not my prediction. It’s Prince’s. My prediction is, it’s not! I would go so far as to almost personally guarantee the Internet is not over. I can imagine the scare this has put into most people. So please, rest assured the Internet is not going anywhere anytime soon. You can continue to conduct your personal and business lives through our very active virtual land.

Prince also informs us: “Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.” Again, please don’t panic. I’m almost completely sure Prince somehow confused the Internet with the Matrix. I’m speculating here, but that would definitely explain why he thinks we’re somehow being inundated with numbers.

The quotes come from an interview Prince did with the U.K.’s ‘Daily Mirror’. In his first newspaper interview in 10 years Prince masterfully shows us he’s somehow lost his Sign ‘o the Times.

Are You Being Held Hostage By Your Web Host?

Man with handcuffs

Held Hostage?

Sure, it sounds silly and even feels more so but it has happened to me. How about you? I have no excuses for it. I’ve been around the tech block a few times and have a pretty good understanding of this web stuff but I’m a victim of mistrust. Because of this mistrust in the past I’ve moved hosts manually without the help of the new or old provider. This can be time consuming and frustrating so I don’t recommend it.

The sites that brought the latest need for a move were on a shared hosting plan. On this host I had several sites using databases, a whole whack of email accounts, password protected directories and of course the web stats history. After considering the work and hassles involved in moving it myself I sat back and watched my well known provider go from around four dollars a month to almost ten. The initial introductory price had run out. Being a customer of two years, who wanted to stay, meant I should pay a lot more than a new client. I can only assume the tactic here is to reel someone in and then milk them once they’re committed. Sound familiar? Even so, I would have stuck with them but they were not providing a level of service that fit with the price. Nor did it fit with the plan they boasted.

So, what do I recommend if you find yourself in a similar situation? The first step is finding a new provider that you can trust. This was the hardest step for me. The next step is tell them you want to switch to them and have them deal with the whole thing. It’s that simple. If they won’t do it or want to charge you I recommend you find someone who will.

Some things you’ll need to do or watch for when moving are:

  • If you have the time and space do your own backup of the site(s) before it is moved. Better safe than sorry.
  • DNS Settings – If your domain moves with your hosting then this is probably not an issue and will be dealt with by the new provider. If you have your domain elsewhere be sure to update it after the move.
  • Directory Passwords – The old password file will be moved but the actual path to the directory may change with the new host. So either change them yourself or ask for that to be done.
  • Database Connections – Database names may change based on your new username. If that’s the case you’ll need to update your script settings to the new usernames. This is a fairly simple thing to do and I’d speculate a lot of new hosts wouldn’t mind helping out.
  • Script Directory Settings – Some scripts may have directory paths in the configuration. This is much like the database settings. If you’re on a shared host using a different username they may need to be changed.
  • For safety measures don’t cancel or delete your old account for at least a few days. It can take a while for a DNS change to take full effect – even if it looks like it has from your location.

The Search for Quality Information

Is it possible? Is it truly, really real and possible?

In case you haven’t already heard there is a very interesting and exciting ‘computational knowledge engine’ website on the Internet. The site is Wolfram|Alpha which launched May 15th of 2009. They have a lofty goal in mind.  To paraphrase, they mean to deliver any and all computable data and information to the masses.

Although some have touted Wolfram|Alpha as the next big search engine I believe it is exactly what they market it as: a computational knowledge engine. A computational knowledge engine is much different than a search engine.  A search engine grabs reams of existing pages and dumps them to a search result while the other computes specific information for the final result. To better understand in part what the computational knowledge engine does we can see some examples from the current search engines. To name a few, the calculator, mapping, distances, and language definitions.

What excites me about Wolfram|Alpha is the potential for high quality information. Wolfram|Alpha will gather good information from trusted sources, systematically compute it and only then provide you with the results. Our current crop of search engines typically grab mass amounts of pages or data from any and every source that may or may not have valid information.

What excites me is Wolfram|Alpha’s focus on starting with solid data and information. This helps resolve the problems that often occur with the current crop of search engines. The existing lack of quality control by current engines can be summarized perfectly with a term used in the IT world known as GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Wolfram|Alpha’s focus on good information in will translate to less time sorting through garbage results from bad sources. The assurance of quality results will save me a lot of stress, frustration and cut down my Aspirin expenses.

See Wolfram|Alpha computational knowledge engine in action at

Examples of what it can do:

Have You Let Your Anti-Spyware Guard Down?

The reason I ask is because last week I had my poor little Windows XP laptop running well over 24 hours doing scans, eradicating Spyware, extracting worms, burning Trojan horses and pouring salt on slugs.  It was an excruciating time for everyone involved and what makes it worse is its not an uncommon occurrence around here.

I do have a real time Anti-Virus guard set up with ‘Shaw Secure’ which is re-branded ‘F-Secure Anti-Virus’.  It does provide protection to some degree but the cold hard fact, at least from what I’ve experienced, is one is never enough when it comes to protection from Malware.

At one point there was a strict difference between Anti-Virus and  Anti-Malware or Anti-Spyware applications.  That strict line continues to blur as some companies are stepping over said line and attempting to offer a ‘complete package’.   In this article I am focusing on applications that are known to be good for Malware, which includes trojans, back doors, loggers, et al and not touching on the Anti-Virus type.

As I mentioned, for Malware one application is never enough.  I strongly suggest (and should note the timeless adage: Do as I say, not as I do) running a real time shield for Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware.  The real time shield sits in memory and watches for nasty things playing around with your system.  Although they will take up system resources a good application can keep the overhead fairly low.  One thing to remember is the real time shield is different than real time scanning.  You don’t want to have multiple programs running real time scanning which is much more system intensive than the shield.  Also, take note that not all Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware apps will ‘play’ well together.  I have never had a problem with the programs I’ve used but I’ve stayed away from the well know, very large and popular Anti-Virus and security packages that are very good at taking over your system.

Now, before this turns into something formal and informative I want to get to another point of why I’m writing this – besides of course letting everyone know how dumb I am for not protecting my helpless little laptop.   There are a lot of quality Anti-Spyware applications out ‘there’ but there are also some less reputable ones.  Many people have been fooled by what looked to be a professional application.  There are many ways the distributors of these applications pedal their wares including various advertisements, sites made to look like independent reviews, hijacking your system and more.  Once they have you install the application some of them produce false reports to make it seem like it’s found a load of Malware.  Considering this, I wanted to provide another resource and give a short list of Anti-Spyware apps that I have used and know to be on the up and up. Remember, these have been used and proven to fix an infected system. Hopefully you’re not like me and you can use one of these for prevention as well.

Note: A summary list will follow this text.

A couple of the ‘big boys’ who have been around and proven to get the job done are: Spybot – Search & Destroy (not to be confused with a product called Search and Destroy) and Lavasoft Ad-Aware.  Spybot –  S&D is donation-ware, it is completely free to use which makes it an easy one to recommend.  Lavasoft Ad-Aware has free and paid versions.  Both Adaware and Spybot have worked well for me without causing any hassles or troubles.  Ad-Aware has reportedly fallen a bit behind in the times but I’ve been more than happy with what its done for me.

For my current favorite I will have to re-iterate this is truly a serious and professional application.  When I first found out about it on a credible Anti-Spyware site, Security I still had trouble believing it.  With some trepidation I tried it out and have loved it ever since.  SUPERAntiSpyware.  Yes, the name screams all sorts of warnings but I’ve found it to be one of the easiest to use, it runs fast, hunts and kills Malware very well. For me, one of the most important aspects of SUPERAntiSpyware is that it doesn’t get in my way. It’s a nice, clean, no-nonsense application.

A couple other very good Anti-Spyware applications are PC Tools Spyware Doctor and Webroot Spy Sweeper. You can download them to scan your system but you’ll need to make a purchase to do any removals. Even if you only stick to free applications it doesn’t hurt to try other scans to see where you stand which is usually on shaky ground when it comes to Malware. As with the previous titles I mentioned these are both highly regarded and award winning Anti-Spyware applications.

I have tried other popular Anti-Spyware applications but have opted not to include applications which were not pleasant to use or productive. Finally, I would like to note where applicable, I have signed up as an affiliate for the applications listed and recommended. This was done as an afterthought when the article was mostly written and had no bearing on what was chosen to make the list. The benefit for you is, if you plan to buy, I was able to find a discount coupon for PC Tools Spyware Doctor and I can now offer a deal on SUPERAntiSpyware Professional with lifetime updates (send me a message if you’re interested). I will add any coupons or deals as I come across them.

The List:

Application Link Comment
Lavasoft Ad-Aware Lavasoft Ad-Aware Anniversary Edition Time tested and proven, free version available.  Purchase for $26.95 with 1 year subscription.
Spybot – Search & Destory Spybot – S&D Old faithful and free!  What are you waiting for?
PC Tools Spyware Doctor Spyware Doctor Strong detection and removal, requires a purchase to remove found infections.  $39.95 purchase with 1 year subscription can be used on up to 3 computers.  10% off coupon expires 04/15/09
SUPERAntiSpyware SUPERAntiSpyware Product Page Crazy name, fast, easy to use, doesn’t get in the way, very good detection and removal, free version available.  My #1.  $29.95 purchase with 1 year subscription.  Only an additional $9.95 for lifetime subscription (see main article text if you’re looking for a deal).
Webroot Spy Sweeper Spy Sweeper Very strong detection and removal, requires a purchase to remove found infections.  My #2.  Purchase with 1 year subscription is currently $29.95.

Home, Home on the Host Monster.

After being neglected for some time has a new homestead on a different host.  The previous host is not to blame for the neglect – that’s a different story and this is about why we’ve moved.

Over a year ago we (that’s Umgy and me and a few other sites) moved to Host Monster in what was supposed to be a temporary and cheap stop over.  I was looking for a more appropriate and affordable hosting package.  Life being what it is, mostly busy, we’re still with Host Monster (that’s me and the other sites, not Umgy).  Before I digress further, I’ll explain why we’ve moved and are trying a new hosting company.

First reason, with Host Monster being a budget hosting company that has one plan and no room for growth I wasn’t expecting the world.  With no way to grow to a VPS, dedicated server or reseller account I knew it wasn’t a long term relationship.  The response from my inquiry on such services also indicated they didn’t want me long term if I was needing more.  I do admit they offered a lot for the price.  Besides the standard features and almost unlmited everything I wanted PHP 5 which wasn’t on all hosts at the time.  They also support PostgreSQL and Ruby, both of which I was interested in playing with.  The support for telnet access was important to me as well.  They do continue to move with the times and are now offering Python in their plan.

The second and major reason is how they meter their accounts.  Host Monster has a system that meters/monitors server load/system resources.  The general gist of this is that if your website(s) take “too much” system resources they will deactivate your account without warning.  Their support will claim this is due to inefficient scripts that are bogging down the whole server.  In theory this makes sense and seems fair but where the problem occurs is how much is “too much”.

Consider you are their customer.  You have purchased a plan which includes “Unlmited Disk Space” and “Unlimited Gigs of Site Transfer”.  I bet you’re expecting you can run basically any website you want?  Consdiering that you should be able to max out their OC-48 Backbone 24 hours a day with as many visitors that your site software can handle.  Unfortunately, you would be wrong.  Granted my example is a tad extreme and most of us wouldn’t expect that much but how much would you expect?

My one business site would not be considered a busy website.  With under 10,000 visitors a month it’s not a large site.  My business, Umgy and some other very low traffic sites are all I have running.  Even so my account has been suspended in the past due to the load.  The reason for my suspension had to do with MySQL taking too long on the site logging which was basically a shock to me.  I’ve have also come dangerously close to their “too much” load when I first copied over my site and other times when I’ve installed one of their supported applications.  That’s not mentioning how risky it is when you’re being indexed by a search engine and have maybe 1 or 2 users on at the same time.

To state which I hope is obvious by now, their “too much” is next to nothing in my opinion.  If you plan to host a very small site with them then you’ll be fine.  If you’re at the starting stages of your site you’ll be fine.  Just be careful as you may soon find yourself growing out of an unlimited host.  If you won’t take my word for it, you may, like me, have noticed sites you’ve surfed to that come up with a page that shows one line indicating the account has been suspended.  It is very likely a budget hosting company and the site has become too big for them.

In closing, it is my opinion that the best and honest business practice would be to indicate they are a host dedicated to casual and small websites and follow that up with less bandwidth, disk space limits and to mention the system metering.

As a bit of a disclaimer and warning I would like to mention that Host Monster is not the only company that has these limits.  So be careful with what host you choose.  Do a search for reviews on the company you’re interested in.  I basically knew what I was getting into when I joined them but as I said it was supposed to be temporary.  Also, for a bit of trivia, the word on the web is that Host Monster is owned by Blue Host.

Any comments or notes about how Umgy is currently running would be very helpful with evaluating the current host.