Category Archives: Hosting

Why GoDaddy is a Horrible Host

GoDaddy sucks… their dashboard is completely un-navigable, their shared hosting has repeated errors, their VPS hosts are so poorly configured that they can’t even run updates on themselves, their CEO murders elephants for his own amusement, and they think that a few Superbowl ads featuring Danica Patrick will somehow make us forget how bad they suck. And now this…

Continue reading Why GoDaddy is a Horrible Host

Moving WordPress to MediaTemple Hosting

I just finished transferring hosting for TipsFor.us from 1and1 to MediaTemple. I had no major qualms with 1and1 other than feeling like we had outgrown them (see the downsides of shared hosting). MediaTemple will give us a lot more room to grow without worrying about the occasional spike of traffic from Digg, StumbleUpon, or whatever.

During the move, I had a heck of a time getting WordPress to work. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t avoid the dreaded WordPress white screen of death. In other words, WordPress only displayed a blank screen, nothing else. Frustration beyond frustrations!

I didn’t get it. I moved all my files from the old server. I exported and imported the database without error. What the heck could be wrong? Manually disabling the plugins by renaming them didn’t help. Messing with the .htaccess file didn’t help. Shouting at it certainly didn’t help (though it DID make me feel a little better). What else could I do?

Tips for a Successful Migration to MediaTemple

If you’re having a hard time migrating WordPress to MediaTemple, try these tips:

1. Remove/Rename your .htaccess file.

In your main hosting directory (html for MediaTemple), you likely have a file called .htaccess. If that file came from your old web host, there may be some wacky stuff in there that is conflicting with the new host. Just try renaming the file to something else. WordPress will create a new .htaccess file when it needs one.

2. Create a new user for your database.

What I found slightly confusing when setting up my WordPress database at MediaTemple is how they do not automatically assign a new user to the database (like 1and1 does). Instead of trying to rely on the default database user (dbXXXXX), just create a new user under the Global Settings.

Once you’ve added a New User, be sure to hit the Permissions button and set the permissions for that user to Read/Write on the specified database.

Now just add the appropriate entries to the wp-config.php file.

3. Disable the WordPress Super Cache plugin completely.

TipsFor.us did not come to life on MediaTemple until I completed this step. The Super Cache plugin, while ultimately helpful, was the culprit in causing the site to only produce the blank screen of death. If you had the caching plugin enabled on your old host, you may need to complete this step.

To completely disable it, first take a look at your wp-config.php file. Look for the line near the top that reads:

define('WP_CACHE', true);

Comment it out by putting a hash mark (#) in front of it. My site came alive after I did this. You can worry about re-enabling the Super Cache plugin later.

Moving to MediaTemple was ultimately a straightforward process. In my case, I ran into a bout of trouble for a couple hours while I figured out what the culprit was. If I could do it all over again, I would definitely disable ALL plugins BEFORE sending it over to the new host. Lesson learned.

Overall, I like MediaTemple a lot so far. I’m still doing some experimenting, but I think I’ll stay here for a while. The site certainly feels more snappy than it did with 1and1. Let’s hope it stays that way.

An Introduction to Podcasting with Blogger and iTunes

Podcasting is the practice of distributing media files online for subscribers to view. Since it is Internet-based, it is similar to simply posting on a website. Many podcasts are distributed as episodic content – such as weekly radio or television shows.

This brief tutorial is focused toward people who have never created an audio podcast before. I put it together for an electronic music class that I teach, and thought it could be of use here on TipsFor.us.

Required Tools

Software

  • Digital Audio Workstation Software

If you’re only recording speech with little or no music, you likely won’t need software like this. Something like Audacity will suffice. For more complicated editing and mixing, you’re going to need digital audio workstation (DAW) software.

The big-boy software titles include Cubase, Sonar, Digital Performer, Pro Tools, Logic, and Samplitude. They also come with a big-boy price. For more modest uses, consider Tracktion or even FREE offerings such as MU.LAB. Use Linux? Try Ardour.

  • Audio Compression Software

You’re going to need to compress that audio file for the Web, and free tools such as Audacity, iTunes, and BonkEnc will do the job with aplomb.

  • FTP Client

Use a free FTP client such as Filezilla or Cyberduck to store your files online on a file/web host of choice (more on that below).

  • Podcast Catcher

To take a look/listen at your newly created podcast, subscribe to it with a tool such as iTunes or Google Reader.

Web

  • Online Web Space

You need a place to store your files on the Web that allows for direct linking. If you already own web space, fantastic. If you do not, don’t worry. There are free workarounds.

  • A Publisher

Though not absolutely required, a free publishing account with a service such as Blogger or WordPress is highly recommended. Podcasts require an RSS Feed (allows podcast catchers to subscribe), and services such as Blogger generate the feed for you automatically. The other option is to write the XML file yourself… tedious.

Create Your Audio File

When you have finished composing and mixing your masterpiece, you need to prepare it for the web. The issue here is to make the file small enough without sacrificing too much quality. You will need to to compress your hi-res audio mix (*.aif) into a lossy format. Most podcasts use either MP3 or AAC. See our digital audio primer.

I suggest using Audacity to compress your audio. No matter what software you use, set the bitrate to at least 128/k (up to about 192/k). Make sure the resulting file has all lowercase letters and no spaces or special characters. Also, make sure your file has an extension (*.mp3).

The compressed audio file is what your subscribers will hear, naturally.

Storing Your File on the Web

The next step is to upload your file to a storage host. The aforementioned free services such as Blogger and WordPress do not currently allow for storage of audio files (legal/piracy reasons). Instead, I suggest using some web space to store your files.

If you do not pay for any webspace, don’t fret. Take a look at our article on overcoming Blogger’s upload limitations. Though the article mentions Blogger specifically, the solutions can apply to any other service.

Publish your Podcast

Now it’s time to publish your podcast so that the world can listen. This section of the tutorial is specific to the Google Blogger service. If you use a different service, please consult their Help section for podcast-specific tips.

The site that my class used is: http://ku-electronic.blogspot.com

To set up a Blogger account for podcasting, do the following:

In your Blogger dashboard, go to Settings → Formatting. Enable the Link Field to enclose audio in your posts.

Now, when you create a New Post, you will see a field for Enclosures.

Add the full link to your hosted audio file (including the http://).

Voila! When you publish your post, it will instantly become a podcast. All RSS Feed requirements are handled automatically.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you want to subscribe to the newly created podcast, just enter the full URL to your Blogger site in your podcast-catching software.

Example (Google Reader):

Subscribe with iTunes

iTunes is slightly different. To subscribe to a Blogger feed in iTunes, go to the Advanced menu, then click Subscribe to Podcast.

Add the full URL to your site, plus /feeds/posts/default

Click OK, and your podcast subscription will show up like this:

Anytime you write a new post on the site, it will show up in the feed reader.

This concludes the tutorial. Happy podcasting!

Fed Up with Blogger’s Upload Limitations?

Update: There’s now a third, very simple method available – who.hasfiles.com – see more info.

Google Blogger is a great and easy way to create your own blog, but one nagging problem is the limitations on uploads. Sure you can upload images and video, but not other common file types such as MP3, DOC, ZIP, and PDF.

There are a number of ways around this limitation. I’m going to show you two of them today.

I had three requirements in mind when finding a solution:

  1. None of the methods should cost a single penny!
  2. The method should allow for direct linking to files, not going through a middle-man.
  3. The process should be as simple as possible.

Method One – Google Sites

The simplest solution that I have found is to use another Google service – Sites. To enable Sites, just log in with your Google account and create a name for your site. Make sure to make your site Public.

Sites offers 100 MB of extra storage space where you can link directly to MP3s, PDFs, or any other type of file you wish.

Now let’s make a page where you can add some files. In Sites, click Create a New Page at the top.

Choose File Cabinet as your page type. Once you’re done, all you have to do is add a file on the page you created.

Once your file uploads, the last step is to simply right-click your file and Copy Link Location (Firefox – other browsers may say something like Copy Shortcut).

Paste that link into Blogger, and voila! You now have a direct link to your file! If you find that you cannot link directly to your file, make sure your Site is listed as Public.

This is the easiest method I’ve found, and I like that it’s tied directly to your Google account. If you run out of your 100 MB, you can create another Google Site, or consider method two below.

Method Two – DriveHQ

This solution is slightly more complicated, but offers much more storage space. DriveHQ has been around for many years, and they offer 1 GB of free space accessible by FTP. You can link directly to files provided that you create a True account – still free, essentially just requires verification of what they call a trustable, non-mainstream e-mail address. Accounts like Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail do not count. I just used my university e-mail.

Though there are other free FTP hosts, I recommend DriveHQ because they have been around for many years, and because your files never expire due to inactivity. I created an account with them four years ago, and I went for over two years without logging in. My files were still just as I left them.

DriveHQ Web Share

Once you create a free account with DriveHQ and upgrade to True status (free), you will have access to a website root folder (wwwhome). Anything you place in your wwwhome folder is accessible online (YOUR-USERNAME.drivehq.com).

Feel free to create folders, but for simplicity’s sake I strongly suggest sticking to all lowercase letters and omitting special characters in your folders and file-names.

Example 1 – If you put a file called sample-file.mp3 in your wwwhome folder, the web path is:

  • http://YOUR-USERNAME.drivehq.com/sample-file.mp3

Example 2 – If you create a folder in wwwhome called music and put your sample-file.mp3 in there, the path is:

  • http://YOUR-USERNAME.drivehq.com/music/sample-file.mp3

Adjust your links accordingly and paste into Blogger. Voila! You have direct links.

FTP Access

Once you’ve registered, you can use FTP to upload files if you do not feel like bothering with their web interface. Just connect to ftp.drivehq.com with your favorite FTP client (such as Filezilla or Cyberduck).

DriveHQ offers 1 GB of storage space, but one catch here is that free accounts only have 1 GB of download bandwidth per month. For most people, this is likely sufficient, but if you know your files will get tons of hits, this is not the best option. Or, you could use a combination of these two methods – use Google Sites for files that will see big traffic and save DriveHQ for seldom-accessed files.

Other Thoughts

Of course, the two methods I present here are not the only possible ways to host files for inclusion with Blogger. There are literally hundreds of free web hosts and file storage services out there. Finding a place to store your files is easy. Finding a good and reliable place to store your files is amazingly difficult.

The vast majority of online storage services either:

  1. Do not allow for direct linking, or…
  2. Expire and delete your files after a certain amount of time or inactivity, or…
  3. Have not been around long enough to be considered tried and true, or…
  4. Try to spam you to death with ads and optional services.

Concerning free web hosts, yes, many of them offer free FTP access. While I applaud this, you need to be careful. The vast majority of free web hosts have a clause in their Terms of Service stating that they are not to be used as file storage. Any accounts found breaching this clause will have their files mercilessly deleted without warning. These companies make the bulk of their money by putting ads on your free site, and file storage/direct linking is simply not profitable for them. You don’t want your files disappearing, do you?

That’s why I chose Google Sites and DriveHQ for this article. If you know of any other solutions that are free, reliable, simple to use, and allow for direct file linking, please let us know in the comments.

Free 100 MB Remote Drive – Who.hasfiles (Online Storage Series)

who.hasfiles logoI recently started using who.hasfiles.com – a free, 100 MB remote file storage service. Before you start scoffing and lambasting me with insults for what seems like a pitiful amount of space, allow me to explain why I think who.hasfiles is worthwhile. While it is true that 100 MB does not go very far these days, especially when compared to some other free online storage services (such as Box.net, XDrive, and DropBoks), it is the manner in which you access files on who.hasfiles that sets it apart from the rest.

Remote Drive Mapping

Most online storage services are web based, meaning that you must access them through a browser. By contrast, who.hasfiles allows you to map your storage space as a remote drive from within your operating system. You don’t have to install anything. Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X are all supported.

who.hasfiles instant mapperThere are specific instructions for each operating system on the who.hasfiles website. Since I run all three major operating systems in my household, I’ve been able to test accessing my storage space from all three platforms. It works.

Windows users can use a nifty instant mapper application to quickly set up access to your 100 MB. The application requires no install and can be deleted afterward.

Usage

Because who.hasfiles integrates directly into your desktop, it also offers the ability to edit and save files directly on the remote server. Need to do some quick editing to an OpenOffice document or spreadsheet? Open the file directly from your mapped storage space! There’s no need to copy the file(s) directly to your hard drive, edit, and then re-upload them. Nice!

Because only 100 MB is available for free, don’t expect to upload much of your MP3 and movie collection, though there are paid upgrades available ($1 per gigabyte per month)*. Here are a few uses that I’ve found for who.hasfiles:

  • keep an updated copy of your bookmarks handy
  • store a KeePass database that you can easily access from any computer
  • backing up important documents
  • quick-and-dirty file sharing between computers

While who.hasfiles focuses on simply storing files, not embedding them into blogs and sharing them with the world, they DO offer a basic sharing service between members.

who.hasfiles sharing

Of course, I’d love to see who.hasfiles offer more than 100 MB for free, but considering the easy integration into the desktop from any major operating system, I can’t complain about the stingy amount of space. For now, I just treat it like a glorified floppy drive (remember those?), or maybe like a networked USB flash drive from 2001.

*Note: in addition to increased space, encrypted access to the storage space is part of the paid plan.

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Domain Switch Complete – from habibbijan.com to TipsFor.us

As you may have noticed, I recently changed the domain name from habibbijan.com to TipsFor.us.

Why?

The old domain (habibbijan.com) was difficult for the average person to remember and pronounce. I liked the old name, which is a combination of an old nickname plus my middle name, but alas, it was time to make the domain name more relevant to the content of the site.

Since the bulk of the content is comprised of tips and tutorials relating to computer technology, the new domain (TipsFor.us) is much more relevant.

Are you keeping the old domain name?

Yes. Also, all links to the old site *should* automatically redirect to the appropriate page. I hope.

Will all the old content remain?

Yes.

Anything else new?

Um… yes and no. The site will still focus on computers and software, but you may see more variety in the topics covered. Two good friends will be joining me in creating content, and the articles they produce will be tailored toward their areas of expertise. Stay tuned.

Will you write a tutorial on how you switched domains with WordPress?

Say, that’s a pretty good idea. I should do that sometime soon. 🙂

Are you still “not a terrorist… seriously”?

Um, yeah. Of course. Seriously.

* for those unfamiliar, my old tagline was “not a terrorist… seriously.” Before you freak out, it was meant as a joke. Hmm, I wonder how many government watch lists I’m on now….

Simple Web Hosting Performance Test: 1and1 versus HostICan

Is it true that 1and1, the world’s #1 web host, has slow servers? Let’s find out.

Since I just switched to a HostICan hosting package, I have a prime opportunity to do a little performance comparison. But first, let’s do a reverse IP check.

Reverse IP Check

By doing a “Reverse IP,” one can tell how many domains are hosted on a server. Since I have a few other domains still on my 1and1 hosting package, I can check both my old plan and my new one.

Current PlanHostICan Base Host Package
reverse-ip_hostican.png

Thirty-four domains on one server. Not too shabby.

Old Plan1and1 Business Package
reverse-ip_1and1.png

Whoa! 251 domains? Now I don’t know the specifics of each server, but my educated guess is that the HostICan server will run circles around 1and1’s poor server, which must feel a lot like Atlas right now.

The Test

The test is simple: in order to stress the CPUs of the servers, I decided to use the WordPress Database Backup plugin to export a copy of the database for this site. The actual MySQL database is fairly small – only about 1.5 MB. The database is exactly the same on each server.

So, how long will it take 1and1 to export this database versus HostICan? When you see the download window pop up, that means the export has finally completed.

And they’re off!

Results

Depending on your download speed, you may need to click the “play” button again to restart the screencasts. If you start them at the same time, you will see that the HostICan backup takes just under 30 seconds to complete. The 1and1 backup, on the other hand, takes approximately 70 seconds to complete an export of the exact same database!

So, based on my very unscientific conclusion, yes, 1and1’s servers are slow, at least in comparison to HostICan.