Category Archives: Websites

Articles, comments and posts regarding websites.

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.

Do You Charity Click?

I admit I have a serious problem with the overwhelming amount of vacuous and rehashed sites out there in Cyberland.  Unfortunately for me, I can’t complain too loudly as I am one of the offenders.  So in an attempt to make right and balance the karmic negatives from my offenses I like to highlight some of the gems out there.  My previous post was about Wolfram|Alpha which is a great way to gather high quality information.  This time, for the big moral boon I’m pulling out The Hunger Site.  It is likely you already know about them as they’ve been around since June of 1999.  So, if this is old news please consider this a gentle reminder.  If not, welcome to the world of charity clicks.

What is The Hunger Site?  To boil it down, its a means for anyone with an Internet connection and a few minutes a day to make the world a better place.  At The Hunger Site all it takes is one click to help feed the hungry, another click to help sponsor free mammograms and another click to help pay for child health care.  There’s three other clicks you can give with: help provide books for those in need, help protect endangered habitats and help with animal rescue.

6 clicks is all it takes to make a difference.  Well, it is more like 12 considering you’re moving from different pages.  I’ve done it for years and recently have passed the torch on.  My three year old daughter and I take time out every day to “help people”.  She knows the purpose of each page and who or what it is helping.   She likes hearing stories behind the images on the site and quite often she’ll make up her own stories and tell me about them.  We get a lot out of it by knowing we’re helping people and the extra bonus for us is additional quality time together.

So, if you have a few spare minutes and some of your clicks why not drop by and check them out?  I’d really like to hear of any other sites that are similar in nature and legit.  Anyone know of others?

I Introduce to You Some Link Love and Comment Luv.

You’ve got to love how easy it is to add WordPress plugins with the one click installer.  Strangely I still seem to have a lot of problems getting many working.  I’m close to having as many de-activated non-working plugins than working ones.  I’m theorizing that subconsciously I believe leaving them installed and stewing will somehow fix the problem at some point.  So, lets set failures aside as I wanted to make note of the few plugins I did get working this week.

The first is the most exciting for me.  I finally installed a dofollow plugin that seems to work with everything.  I’m only guessing it works as it is Lucia’s Linky Love, which as you may know, will only start dofollow’ing after the 3rd comment from the same commenter.  The drawback to this is when considering the number of comments to date (not counting illegal porn acts spam caught by Askimet)  I project there won’t be a dofollow link for several years.  I am setting a life goal to last long enough to see at least one person get a dofollow.   Previously I had tried DoFollow, WebGuerrilla Version and Do Follow by Dennis de Bernady.  I liked what they offered but neither worked properly for me.

The second plugin is commentluv.  commentluv is supposed to show a link to the last post from the commentors blog… or so they say.  I’ve seen it working elsewhere but, as with the first plugin I’ll have to see it working here to believe it.  Anyone getting the hint yet?

OK, third and last is Domain Portfolio.  It allows you to list the domain names you have and whether they’re for sale or not.  I’ve actually seen it work here which is a mega bonus for me.  It is still a beta plugin and I’d say it needs a little finishing to get all the features in order.  Serious points for it working though and it was the only domain related plugin that I could find.  You’re free to check it out and make a great offer on any of the listed domains.  You can consider it as helping me test it out, would be very neighbourly of you.  To ensure we’re on the same page – I’m not saying do it as a test, I mean actually buy them.   Sound good?

Finally, for a sort of on topic finish.  I came across an interesting opportunity to try out a new WordPress plugin.  It’s not really up my alley but I thought it was a great idea.  It should be quite interesting to domainers and those of you that are into auto content generation.  I’ll see if I’m allowed to post about it after I’ve done some playing around.

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.

I’ve Decided to Dew the Drop

What do you think of that witty little title? You get it, don’t you? The Drop, from Drupal. Dew as in Dewdrop but meant as do (that’s a homophone y’know). Pretty cute, huh?drupliconsmall.png

Alright, I’ll explain. I have chosen to use the PHP based content management system (CMS) Drupal for one of my projects. This may not seem like a big deal to you but it is for me. You see, I have a small problem. I end up spending massive amounts of time trying to figure out what tools I should use for each project. This was no exception.

The project is a gaming related site with a specific focus. I admit I was able to create a shortlist right off due to continued research on CMS’s and PHP Frameworks. The shortlist consisted of: Drupal, Joomla!, CodeIgniter or MODx.

I will introduce each and explain the major factors that lead to my decision.

MODx CMS and PHP Application Framework

MODx was awarded by Packt Publishing the “Most Promising Open Source Content Management System” in the 2007 Open Source CMS Awards.

MODx is a very interesting project which is targeting the Web 2.0 audience with an AJAX library, SEO focus, web standards compliance and cross browser compatibility among other things. It is an open source project with the standard no-nonsense GPL.

The decision against MODx was mostly due to the current rewrite of the core code. As of writing the official release is There is a newly rewritten core on the way and slated as version 0.9.7. In my opinion this is a major problem with many CMS’s and Frameworks. Often these open source projects are in constant flux due to major revisions.

The small part of me that is a geek feels excited about MODx but I don’t feel comfortable starting a project with what could be an outdated and unsupported code base ala Further, who’s to say how long it will take 0.9.7 to become stable and what kind of backwards compatibility will it have? I’m not sure this was a great plan right after winning the most promising CMS award.


Joomla! took “Best PHP Open Source Content Management System” and came in second for “Overall Open Source Content Management System Award” in the aforementioned Packt Publishing Awards. Joomla! started as a fork of the Mambo CMS and has been working at making a name for itself ever since. Joomla! has two versions available at this time: 1.0.15 and 1.5.1. Both are licensed under GPL.

Version 1.0.15 maintains a certain compatibility with Mambo to allow for use of the large assortment of Mambo/Joomla extensions. A large focus on the project has been a steady move away from its Mambo beginnings. That move has resulted in Joomla! version 1.5.1. The latest version includes an object oriented API, split of logic from presentation, search engine friendly URL’s out of the box (about time) and several other changes, additions and goodies.

Again, therein lays the big problem. 1.5.1, in comparison, is a new code base with limited usable extensions. Even some die hard Joomla! fans recommend staying away from 1.5.1 until the community can catch up and provide ample offerings for it. Starting a major project with 1.0.15 may cause additional problems and considerations if the need to upgrade arises.

I do like Joomla! for its sheer simplicity and ease of use. You can have a good solid working CMS up and out the door in no time. It reminds me of a new generation of the old Nuke CMS’s where there is a large user base constantly adding to the project. The Joomla! project is a beast that is only going to get bigger and better.

CodeIgniter PHP Application Framework

CodeIgniter is not a CMS. It’s an open source library type framework for PHP programmers with a very liberal BSD like license. CodeIgniter (CI) is a great framework with excellent documentation that provides a simple and lightweight collection of libraries. It is not overly abstracted, has a very short and easy learning curve, needs minimal server requirements and moves like greased lightning compared to many other PHP frameworks. The CI team does its best to maintain backward compatibility to allow for easy transitions to new releases. This, to me, is a major plus that many open source teams are missing.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about CI. The main reason I decided against it is the amount of time involved to build the application. There are a few CI based CMS’s that are just surfacing. I will keep a close eye on them for this and future projects. Until then, I’ll be working with Drupal.


Finally, that leaves us with my decision. Drupal is a PHP based CMS which was awarded “Overall Open Source Content Management System Award” and took second for both, “Best PHP Open Source Content Management System” and “Best Open Source Social Networking Content Management System” in the Packt Publications 2007 contest.

Drupal is currently offering two versions, 5.7 and 6.1, both under GPL. I have opted for the older 5.7 due to module compatibility. Drupal provides a way to upgrade from 5.7 to 6.1 so instead of trying to run 6.1 with legacy code I will upgrade as the modules do. I am confident Drupal will continue to provide a solid and reliable way to move forward.

That leads to a serious plus for Drupal. The team is dedicated to a rock solid core and they seem focused with a steady development plan. I don’t have to worry about newly rewritten cores or drastic changes every few months. The Drupal project has that ‘old reliable’ feeling, one that is not riddled with surprises and upsets.

What has kept me away from Drupal is the learning curve. Drupal does things its own way using its own terminology. I’d say it is very unlikely someone new to Drupal could churn out a fully featured website in the same time a new Joomla! user would. What may take a new user one day in Joomla! may take a week in Drupal.

On the flip side, after that week with Drupal you are left with a sense of awe at its flexibility and potential. Sure, it is still awkward in many ways but it can be a powerful system to work with.

Another plus for Drupal is reports of an excellent API. I haven’t dove into that yet but expect I will soon.

A note for developers and designers both Drupal and Joomla! can open doors to additional opportunities. I often see local contracts for developers and designers familiar with Drupal or Joomla!. Sometimes both.

If you’re looking for a flexible and reliable CMS I would strongly recommend giving Drupal some time. I have found the online documentation to be spattered throughout the site. Often it is not very enlightening especially for modules. If you want to give Drupal a shot I would recommend checking out a Drupal book from your local library to help you along.

Go Daddy, Whoa Daddy!

I got surprised today! Shocked too! The source? Go Daddy.

The surprise: A nice, polite email telling me how much my auto-renewed domains cost. Not such a good surprise. I prefer gifts with some kind of value, be it monetary, physical, emotional, you know, good stuff. Directed to me of course, not other people.

Yes, it is my fault for not being diligent and luckily it wasn’t too serious. Three domains renewed all with private registration. It wouldn’t have been too bad if I hadn’t just renewed two domains the other night for $2 less per domain. So I was looking at a $6 dollar slap on the hand with a $27 dollar chaser for good measure (the 3 private registrations).

Thoroughly surprised and appalled at such an affront I was out for blood and so I called Go Daddy and I did it quick. Quick and aggressive. I punched those numbers on my phone with determination and a steel heart.

The Shock: After listening to the automated message routing me to who knows where (no shock) I end up talking to Moses in billing. Moses I say! Further, I understand him! This guy is speaking a language I know and he’s doing it better than I am.

Without crying I tell this Moses guy I was just billed for 3 auto-renewals with privacy options and I want it canceled. To add to the shock, Moses is nice and friendly. He tells me my options without even a hint at how I’m a dumb <something> for letting it happen. No preaching at all. He just tells me I can delete the order but the domains would be available for anyone to take.

This Moses guy is way too professional for me. I explain to my friend Moses that I renewed two domains for cheaper just the other day. Unfazed and again without any hint of me being stupid for letting this happen he explains he can’t drop the price after the fact. But we do figure out we can cancel the privacy options and get a refund for that.

Now, I’m pretty certain I could have worked it a bit and had the privacy dropped with a refund and redo the transaction with a discount but Moses was working his magic on me. I figured I’d eat the difference, it served me right. So we agree on this and Moses transfers me to support. Yes, the dreaded transfer.

Take a wild guess what happens next? Next thing you know, I’m talking to Linda. She must be related to Moses because she’s all nice and friendly and I understand her! Me and Linda strike up a great convo after I give her my account number, tell her my name and give her a password.

I’d say she wasn’t exactly sure what I was trying to get across with the cancellation of the privacy option. Either that or she wasn’t sure of the process. Even so, without missing a beat she gets things going. She’s on the ball and arranges it with the supervisor, sets it up and passes to me… and I fumble.

Seems I have to cancel the privacy on before they can process the refund and like I have any idea what my ID or password is. She helps me a bit by telling me its the same password as my Go Daddy account but a different ID. After that she waits patiently while I don’t find my account info. After fumbling around for a couple of minutes and feeling like a dolt, I ask if I can call back. She’s agreeable and tells me it’s ready and there’s a note in the file, I just need to cancel and let them know.

Things are really rolling now. I find my account details post-haste and do my part like a professional. I get the job done and call back. Now, obviously you know and expect what happens next?

I get in touch with John. John too is part of the same family, he’s all nice and friendly. I tell him once what the deal is and like it’s nothing to him he asks me for a couple minutes to get the job done. So, bing bang boom, with less than two minutes of silence John gets back to me and apologizes for the delay. He tells me it’s done and asks if there’s anything else he can do for me.

Well, shiver-me-timbers, who said customer service was dead? It’s alive and well at Go Daddy! I’m not sure what they’re feeding their support staff but I like it. Considering Go Daddy is well known as a low-cost option for a variety of web services I was not expecting such a pleasant experience. I can’t recall the last time I had such an easy exchange with any kind of support.

So, as much as I hate to push the ‘big-boys’ if this one experience is any indication of what Go Daddy is providing I’m in. I’m in enough to at least pay $2 more per domain!

A couple closing notes:

– Go Daddy can be found at:
– Unfortunately their 24/7 support line is not a 1-800 number.
– Fortunately the wait times were quite acceptable. My initial wait time was estimated at 4 minutes, I would say they answered in under 3 mins. When transferred to support another wait estimation of 4 minutes and again I was talking live in under 3. My second call was estimated at 6 minutes and I’d say it was under 4 mins.
– They have a nice option of being on hold with or without music.

Host Hunting.

My father is someone who enjoys spending. In my younger days he would often chide me about being cheap. I am certain he was disappointed that I never had it in me to work my way up to his lofty purchasing indiscretions.

On the flip side, in the early stages of my relationship with my wife I was able to shock her at how I wasted my hard earned money on frivolous things such as take-out. I have been with my wife for some years now and she has had an effect on me. What may not have come as a surprise to my father, my wife has been quite successful in guiding me to becoming more… lets say, thrifty.

I’m not sure I can say it any clearer. As you must have deduced from my wordy intro and such a descriptive title, when it comes to web hosts I can be down right tight fisted.

Seeing as I’m on the search for another host you get to see me rant about them. I could be the responsible type and argue both sides of the topic but that is beyond the scope of this ‘article’ and my current interest.

Now, lets consider some of the options on hosting plans. There are hosts that are setting limits like: Number of Domains (1), Addons Domains (None on this package), Email Accounts (3), Mailing Lists (No), FTP Access (1 Account).

What the..? They’re giving away what costs them money when providing ‘free’ domain (sometimes ‘free’ domain for life) and ‘free’ site transfer (they have to pay their employees to do this). These are items that actually cost them something but they limit options that cost them nothing or next to nothing.

Is it really fooling any prospective clients into thinking they get a great deal when they can have 10 email accounts instead of 3? The fact is, from day one they would have been further ahead by pretending these extras were the lost leaders instead of having true lost leaders like domain names.

Ok, before I go any further, I will admit this post is coming a little late in the game. Most of the plans I’ve seen have become much more reasonable and have updated offerings. Sadly, I would speculate the change is due to pricing wars (or option wars) and not from customers complaining that they don’t appreciate the strategies.

As I hinted this reminds me of the strange pricing model you used to see fairly often in software. You know, that completed software package that allows one user at one computer for $39 but with a flick of the software switch you can have 12 users for only $3000, 64 for $50,000. Same software, same code. Where did this pricing idea come from?

There are a few things that should be the main focus in the cost of plan. Those are: Storage Space, Bandwidth (Traffic) and Server Load (CPU/memory usage). Some of the other features do increase some costs, but they are secondary. A plan should mostly be priced and monitored on the said three items.

For example, does it make sense for the poor sucker who had to purchase a Gold Plan at $30 a month to park 50 domains that are taking up zero bandwidth, a minuscule amount of drive space and basically no resources? Specially when the other guy has a Copper plan, for the low introductory price of $4.99 a month, and is hosting 1 site, taking up 2 gigs of space, 2000 gigabytes of bandwidth and is burning out CPU’s like crazy with custom coded software.

I’m just trying to say, as I search for a new host, my crazy mind keeps bouncing back to the whole idea that it would make me much happier if they would just be straight forward. Oddly, I’m not the type who appreciates the marketing garbage and the attempts to convince me how beneficial the Ultra-Diamond package is because it has a mailing list option.

Now before everyone goes crazy and wants to debate, obviously the pricing schemes must allow for facility costs, hardware purchases, employees and various standard business costs. That’s standard business and of course the company needs to make something. Further I do understand that some of the pricing schemes have to do with targeting specific buyers but I wouldn’t have had as much fun writing about that.

If you were able to last this long, I’m surprised. I’d be happy for any comments or suggestions on good, affordable hosts. I’m quite interested in slicehost but $20 a month for a hosting plan is downright painful for a ‘thrifty’ person.