Tag Archives: Wordpress

Time for a Change: Gradwell to TSO Hosting

Way back when I first got an internet connection I was with Demon Internet on their famous tenner a month account. The company was small, had responsive UK support from knowledgeable techies. Then they sold out to the telecoms offshoot of Scottish Power and things started to go downhill, eventually I got fed up and moved away. When I moved rather than take an e-mail address from my new ISP I got myself a domain name, so it then wouldn’t matter if I changed ISP in future, indeed I have changed ISP several times in the intervening years.

The company I chose to host the domain was again a small company, Gradwell Internet which was headed up by Peter Gradwell, at that time a student working his way through University. The support was excellent, at times you’d even find Peter Gradwell himself handling support calls. Then VOIP started taking off, and the company refocused slightly towards VOIP and businesses, and as time has gone on I’ve been increasingly feeling that the old small hosting customers aren’t really important, the quality of service has dropped. So for example e-mail went out for the best part of a day a while back, general performance of websites was sluggish, I had e-mail that just vanished, and then the real finale earlier this month was they had a fault in their hosting cluster that caused one of my sites to produce errors whenever that machine in the cluster was hit, and whilst they fixed the cluster Gradwell managed to propagate the copy of the website they’d corrupted across all the machines rather than keep the working copy, leaving me having to dig around and restore the site from my backup.

So finally after just short of ten years with Gradwell I took the decision to move on, and interestingly talking to friends who have also been long term Gradwell customers they’re finding the same thing, one is transferring sites away, another has already moved all his sites away and currently only has domains. Taking a look online again there are lots of disappointed Gradwell customers moving away, so the question is where to go?

Initially I took a look at one of the big namesFast2Host who have done well in things like the PCPro awards, and as I wanted the flexibility to host my WordPress based blogs, but also try out some ASP.Net stuff I opted for their Windows based package. That unfortunately didn’t get overly far as although it can host WordPress, it is problematic running scripts like  that I use to keep regular backups of my sites. The support was really good, but ultimately suggested I needed a Linux account instead and swapped me over. Initially I didn’t think that would be too much of a problem, then I started moving my domains over to CPanel.

Now CPanel is pretty much the de-facto standard for many Linux hosting packages, but it has one fundamental flaw in that it was initially written to host a single domain. The way the developers chose to support additional domains is in my view a massive hack, what happens is when you add an additional domain it creates a sub-domain of your main domain, and then maps the additional domain onto that. What that does is put the additional domains into a folder beneath the main folder for your main domain, mixing code for the two domains together, it also means any additional domain can also be accessed as both a subdomain of your main domain, and also as a folder within it. Whilst with some hacking around of access files you can work around that it is still not keeping additional domains separate as I had been able to do on Gradwell.

So I took a look for other hosts that don’t use CPanel, and a name that came up several times amongst former Gradwell users was TSO Hosting. As a company they used to use CPanel, and indeed will still provide an account running it if pressed, but for most customers they recommend their own cloud hosting product. Alongside not being CPanel one of the big advantages of this from my point of view is it’s not tied to a particular platform, they support both Linux and Windows in the same account, so I can host my WordPress sites in Linux, but also play around with Windows and ASP.Net hosting all under the same account with no problems.

I did the changeover over the course of several days last weekend, and now all of my sites are running from TSO Hosting servers, and so far so good. The support has been excellent, even answering a whole load of pre-sales questions on a Sunday morning when Gradwell usually won’t answer an e-mail from a small user like me. I’d certainly recommend them as a good host so far, especially if like me you want the flexibility to work both with Linux sites, or Windows.

If you want to give them a go, they are great for hosting a WordPress blog like this, with a one click install to get you going, and if you enter EXIGENCY1 as a coupon code at the checkout they’ll give you 10% off the price. Click on the banner below to get to their site.

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Spring Cleaning

I’ve had some unintentional and rather drastic spring cleaning on the blog this weekend. I decided that I really should upgrade the site to the latest version as it was still running version 2.1.3 of WordPress, and the main release has just hit 2.5.1. The upgrade of the main software went fine, it was K2, the fairly complex theme I was using that hit problems, not helped by their support wiki being down for maintenance all weekend. After some messing about with that, in the end I decided that perhaps it was a good opportunity to change the presentation, so I’ve now swapped over to a totally different look using the plaintxtblog theme, with a couple of tweaks to support my inline picture styles on the older posts. As usual, I think everything should be working, but if anyone finds anything that isn’t working properly, give me a shout.

Facebook Privacy Response

After the earlier Facebook privacy concerns, the firms head of privacy has used the launch of a UK office to address the points raised.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic from the article is that following the publicity about the changes, 20% of users had updated their profile privacy settings.

There are a number of other interesting statistics too:

  • The UK is the fastest growing market, but unlike the USA it is attracting older users – 54% of UK users are over 25, and over 35’s are the fastest growing group.
  • Facebook is not the largest social networking site in the UK – currently MySpace and Bebo are bigger. However if the current growth continues Facebook is predicted to pass MySpace this month.
  • The opening up of the site has radically changed the demographics of the user base – 75% of users are now outside college.
  • The company has a revised target of 60,000,000 active users worldwide by the end of the year – the original target for the year, already surpassed, was 40,000,000.
  • The company identify the application platform as being a major growth factor – currently there are 3000 applications available, and apparently 80,000 developers working on the platform.

Anyway, the application platform has given me a way around one of my original annoyances, which was that a number of friends were primarily operating through Facebook and getting grumpy that my profile was largely empty. I’ve still got a largely empty profile – but thanks to a great little WordPress plug-in called Wordbook details of my posts on here are automatically placed into the mini-feed on Facebook. There were a number of variations around for integrating blogs, but this seemed to be the best for me as it was all automatic, plus it didn’t rely on dumping large amounts of my content into Facebook, or my having to manually select posts on the Facebook end to work. Alongside this I’ve also added a feed for my pictures from Flickr – again this is a tool that links back to the original pictures on Flickr rather than dumping all the data onto Facebook

What’s in a Name?

So having taken the decision to switch to the WordPress hosted service, rather than hosting on his home connection so as to allow more time for writing, Beth’s brother has been putting it into practice! After last week explaining why he is blogging, this week he’s explaining the name of his blog, Memetic Syns.

Unfortunately, for those of you looking for a similarly big explanation of the name of this site, I’m afraid it falls into the quirky, no explanation, writer whim category!

By the way, if you’re browsing our site through a mobile browser such as Opera Mini, you’ll find that the site looks a little different. I’ve installed the WP-Mobile plugin from Alex King, which checks the browser looking at the site, and if it is listed as a mobile browser, presents the site using a low bandwidth theme, that should render quicker than the usual K2 theme.

K2 Update

If the site looks a little different, it’s because I’ve updated the K2 theme which I am using for presentation. Amongst other things it changes how the header and sidebars are handled, so some of the tweaks I’ve made still have to be replaced. It also has a couple of new toys, the most obvious being the archive slider that appears at the top of the front page – try it out and see what you think.

Themes that Play Nice

I’ve spent the day updating the software that drives the blog. It is now up to date, and running the latest version of WordPress, version 2.0.2. Thankfully the upgrade went really smoothly, it taking more time to actually back up the existing configuration than do the update.

At the same time, I thought I’d try and change the theme which we were using, this proved to be a lot more tedious and frustrating, mainly because the various themes I tried, and the Flickr photo albums didn’t play nicely together. I’ve tried various themes, and also both FAlbum and Flickr Photo Album, and neither of the album plugins seem to get on with certain themes, in particular wp-andreas09 which looks really good with the rest of the blog, but places the FAlbum content level with the bottom of whichever sidebar is longest. It misbehaves in a similar way with Flickr Photo Album, except the first part of the photo page is correctly placed, with the rest of the content on the page in a similar location to FAlbum.

Currently I’m running with the Tiga theme, which doesn’t do as many pretty things with fonts and colours as some of the other themes, but does come with integration with FAlbum out of the box.

I guess what I’ll have to do at some point is to sit down with one of the non-working themes, and compare it with the integration in Tiga, to try and fathom out what is going wrong.

Ecto – First Impressions

One of the things I’ve been trying out over this holiday, is using something other than the built in editor to edit blog postings, mainly from the point of view that offline editing allows me to make better use of some of the tools on the Mac to make writing the posts easier – chief among those being the built in spelling checker.

After comparing the options, I decided to go for Ecto, some of the things that swayed my decision where the glowing reviews, particularly a detailed review that a friend of Howards produced, the impressive feature list, plus the fact that there is a PC version too.

So far, aside from this posting the only published posting on the blog that uses Ecto is the New Year posting. There have been a couple of annoyances, which I suspect may be as much to do with the way I have been doing things before, and I may be able to work around with the configuration settings.

I had to spend a little time getting the preview window set up so that the preview looks like the finished posting, which was primarily copying chunks of the style-sheets from the web site into the Ecto configuration screens, it was slightly tedious, but is all done now. There is still one hiccup currently, although the main preview window looks fine, the font size in the front page preview pane is still too small, which is annoying, but I can live with it.

The actual posting turned out to be a bit more complicated, particularly with regards to doing the picture. Recently I’ve been using the WordPress Javascript Quicktags to put pictures into postings, and taking pictures straight from Flickr – although usually just by cutting and pasting the link from the relevant page on Flickr. For a start, Ecto doesn’t have Flickr support built right in, but that is pretty easy to get around by pasting in the image link. However getting the drop shadow quick tag to work is again going to require a bit of fiddling I think – for the New Year post I actually ended up wrapping it in the quick-tag in the web based editor first.

There also seems to be a bit of a bug in that it is failing to set the post categories correctly for any edits that are posted, so I’ll have to take a look at that. Again probably a configuration issue somewhere.

Having said that, it is really nice having a spelling checker on my posts – hopefully weird and whacky spelling on the blog will be a thing of the past now – and Ecto seems configurable enough that I should be able to get it working with Flickr in the way I want too. Once I’ve made a few more posts I’ll write something a bit more detailed.