XO Hosting Review

I’ve been fortunate to work with John Klein and some of the ladies over at KMP Advertising to help them create their new website. They created a beautiful website that I was proud to develop for them.

I built the website with a simple php include template and basic htaccess rewrite for the client pages.

XO Hosting meets Ashton Sanders

We had been planning on switching hosting accounts to my server, but when XO Hosting (there previous hosting provider) promised that it would destroy the email setup, we decided to keep it there. No problem. How bad could it be? If nothing else I will get to write a lengthy XO Hosting Review…

Last night, I started transferring the new website files to the XO Hosting server. I went to test one of the simplest pages on the site, and got an error that said:Â “CGI Scripting not allowed on this server.” Well that stinks. I waited till this morning so I could contact their technical support.

Thankfully, turning CGI Scripting (and PHP) was easy enough to do. Unfortunately, I hadn’t even gotten started on the problems with XO Hosting.

Twitter Plugins for WordPress

I just searched the WordPress Plugins section for “twitter” and I got 17 pages of plugins and most of them are crap… ugh.

All I want is a Twitter Plugin that will:

  1. Send a tweet to my twitter when I post on my blog.
  2. Adds a re-tweet link to each blog post.

How difficult can this be? After installing a few highly-rated plugins, and not being satisfied, I decided to write up what I found. This is only 6 of the most popular twitter plugins I could find. If you know of a better one, please let me know so I can check it out. This is in order of Best to Good. I don’t have any crappy plugins on this list. They should all work, at least partially.

Twitter Tools – v1.6

WordPress Plugin Page

Twitter Tools is a plugin that creates a complete integration between your WordPress blog and your Twitter account.

Well that’s a promising introduction. It’s a very simple installation, and just about everything is editable in an easily-accessible Twitter Tools Page. Put in your information, select your preferences, and you are good to go.

AWeber Email Marketing Review

AWeber is a very popular web-based email marketing service.

What is an email marketing service?

An email marketing service is a company that does all of the technical aspects of maintaining an email/newsletter list. If you want to start sending out an email newsletter, since it is one of the best ways of marketing on the internet, there are many email marketing services that will handle the removes, bounces, ESP whitelisting, and all of the other tasks a large email newsletter sender would have to do.

The down side of using any email marketing service is that you have to follow their rules and do thing their way. So it’s very useful to know how the different email service providers work so you can make an intelligent decision on which one to use, as there are many of them.

Aweber Email Marketing

AWeber

Mac Support Pulls a Stupid

To preface this rant, I thought I would tell you a little bit about myself:

1) I’ve only ever had PC’s. My father had a 286 and a 486 while I was growing up, and I’ve always been very into computers. My brother and I built our own computers for under $300 each while we were in high school. We were never presented with the opportunity to build a Mac.

2) Growing up, my friends and I played a lot of computer games, and I’ve tried to connect a Mac with a PC over a network… If you want to play a computer game at a LAN party, don’t bring a Mac.

3) I’m also very thrifty (stingy even) and never spend more than $1000 for a computer.

Those are three reasons whey I’ve never owned a mac. Please notice that there isn’t a “Mac’s are for idiots” reason. I don’t have any problems learning how to use a Mac, but I’m not going to drop a couple grand on a computer just to re-learn how to do things. (I use iTunes as my only music playing program.)

Now that you understand that I am pretty neutral on the Mac vs PC issue, here’s my rant:

Ordering a Simple Mac Product

I needed to purchase QuickTime 7 Pro to edit some videos for a client, and I needed to get it done in a couple days. No problem, right? On December 21st, I log into the Mac store, and purchase the registration key for $30. Immediately I get an email saying:

Hello Ashton Sanders,

Thank you for shopping the Apple Online Store. Your order is complete and your purchase information is located below.

Be sure to keep a copy of this email for your records. It may contain your software key(s), which you can retrieve at any time by visiting Downloadable software purchases in Your Account.

Visit Order Status to view your order details.

Best regards,
The Apple Store Team

Even though this introduction email refers to possibly containing a software key (like the one I need to activate QuickTime 7 Pro), the order details only says:

Product Name: QT 7 PRO WIN ACCESS KEY-INT
Product Number: D3381Z/A
Price: $29.99
Quantity: 1

Registered to: Ashton Sanders

And then it has instructions for how to use the registration code.

Problem: No Registration Code

Solution 1: Okay, maybe I just need to wait a while. So I waited until lunch time the next day before contacting their live chat support in the Apple Store. I explain my problem a couple times before she said, “We can’t help you with that. Go to the support website for QuickTime.” Which obviously shows that she still didn’t understand the problem I was having…. since my problem is that the Apple Store didn’t give me the Registration Key.

FAILURE.

Solution 2: I called the Apple Store Support and they told me, “It usually takes up to 24 hours for the registration key to get mailed to you.” Okay, fine. I’ll wait till 9:00 at night. I waited till 9:00 that night and still did not receive a registration key. The best part was that the support line closed.

FAILURE.

Solution 3: I called the Apple Store Support the next morning and they told me, “It usually takes up to 48 hours for the registration key to get mailed to you.” And you guessed it… still no registration key.

FAILURE.

Finally after 4 days of waiting and 3 calls, someone told me, “It usually sends you the registration key immediately, but sometimes it just breaks. I’ll credit your account (it takes 5 days) and you can purchase it again.”

Thanks Apple Store for being crappy.
-Ashton Sanders

Open Source PHP Gallery – Plogger3 Review

I have been doing some research into Open Source PHP Image/Photo Galleries for a couple clients. The first Gallery I have created is using Plogger 3, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

You can see the Gallery I created on Delphi Troop 555 Website.

Plogger Gallery Installation:
Plogger is as simple to install as WordPress is. All you do is upload it to your server, create a Database on your server, and give the coordinates to the program when you go to the install file. I had one problem with installing Plogger, and that was that for some reason the program couldn’t create new folders, so I had to create a couple folders (including “/upload/”).

Plogger Gallery Organization:
Plogger has a lot of things going for it. It is easy to create “Collections” and “Albums.”

Plogger Photo Uploading:
You have two choices when uploading images to the Gallery. You can either upload one image at a from your computer, or you can use FTP to upload the images to the “upload” folder. Unfortunately uploading one image at a time can be quite tiresome if you have 400 images to upload. The “upload” folder works perfectly, and I highly recommend it, but most of my clients don’t understand how FTP works (and don’t want to). It would be nice if you could browse your computer for multiple images at a time.

Plogger Interaction:
There are a good number of settings that help you to customize your gallery to do exactly what you want. Some settings include “Send E-mail Notification for Comments” and ability to choose thumbnail and display sizes.

Plogger Problems:
The biggest problem I’ve had with Plogger is that there is no functionality for multiple users. Someone on their forum says that he is almost done programming the install package for an add-on that will allow multiple users. I will keep you posted on how this goes.

I’m also not extremely happy that the entire Gallery (Collections, Albums, Images, Comments, etc) is displayed on the same page; using the Query string to change pages. From my experience this takes a little while longer for Search Engines to Index.

Enjoy,
-Ashton Sanders

Simple PHP Blog

I have already done a lot of ranting and raving about Blogger and WordPress.

Although I consider these two to be the leaders of the blogging pack (by a large margin), I did run across a blog using Simple PHP Blog, and was impressed. It doesn’t have all the crazy features like the other two, but it does have a feature which really attracted my attention. On the bottom of every post there are five dots, and you can rate the post 1 to 5. This way, people can interact with your posts and website without actually having to write a comment.

Don’t get me wrong, the comment function is still intact, but the percent of comments compared to visitors is tiny, while the percent of “ratings” to visitors is much higher.

Another note: Simple PHP Blog isn’t database driven. You can run it on a server without needing a database!

If anyone ends up using this system, please let me know how it goes.
-Ashton Sanders

Liberty Names of America

Websites in a Flash Mascot

Liberty Names of America

is yet another great example of Jerks trying to get a lot of money for nothing.

My wife has a website for her horse business called TopPriorityTrakehners.com. (Trakehner is a breed of horse.) We have this domain registered with 1&1 for $7/year.

Today, I got a letter in the mail from Liberty Names of America saying that my domain was coming up for renewal, and by filling out this form and paying $29/year, I could renew my domain name with Liberty Names of America! what a great deal! I can also get the .org and .net variants of my domain for the same unbelievable price of $29/year!

ARE YOU SERIOUS?

What jerk thought this up? Emailing people and telling them to renew for ridiculous amounts of money. The worst part is that they make the letter look like just a friendly reminder to renew your domain… when actually they are trying to get you to transfer your domain to Liberty Names of America and pay four times the price of 1and1.

And of course they have to have the patriotic name “Liberty Names of America” because they are trying to fulfill the American dream by taking everyone else’s money. It just makes me sick: all of the low-life jerks who try to come up with these schemes to trick people into giving them lots of money for literally nothing in exchange.

“Everybody’s trying to get filthy rich off of someone else’s money.” -Big and Rich (Filthy Rich)

I hope this page comes up in Google for “Liberty Names of America” and no one every pays them a dime.
-Ashton Sanders

Blogger vs WordPress – Remote Site

When I first started this blog, I did a little bit of research about blogs, and chose Blogger. Now that I’ve been using Blogger for almost a year, I’ve started another blog, about Mordheim, with WordPress, and here are my thoughts:

Blogger

Overview

Blogger is very simple and user-friendly. There is a reason they are the most popular: it’s extremely easy to set up a blog and write posts. They also have a lot of functionality.

WordPress

Overview

WordPress is a little more complicated, and it seems like you can do more with the additional complication. They also have a very user-friendly interface and simple layout. WordPress has a larger base of fans who have created many blog layouts that are free to download. Because of this, WordPress’s Free Layouts are much nicer, stylish, better.

Blogger

Remote Blog

Unfortunately, if you want to put your website on a remote server (any other website besides “*.blogspot.com”), you lose almost all of your functionality. You don’t even get a Category Roll. The Categories listed on the right side of this blog is done manually. (The post count is also done manually).

WordPress

Remote Blog

Fortunately, WordPress.org supplies you with a free download of WordPress, and easy installation instructions. In 5 minutes, you have a new, stylish and functional blog hosted on your PHP website. They have a lot of functionality, and each free blog layout has different amount of functionality. You could probably spend the rest of your life trying out different blog layouts. If you are a PHP programmer, it is very easy to sink into the code and make lots of changes to the functionality. From making the categories display alphabetically, by ID, etc.

I would definitely recommend WordPress over Blogger for advanced users who are looking to host their blog on their website.

Blogging For Life,
-Ashton Sanders

Content Management System for Websites

From my years of working on the internet, I have come to realize that the one thing that almost all of my clients desire, is the ability to manage their own website. This way, they never have to wait on their web guy to change a phone number on their website. If they have a new product, they have the ability to add it to their own website.

Because of this huge demand for a CMS for websites, we have developed one that I call “Database in a Flash.” This Content Management System is a very user-friendly program that uses MySQL and PHP. It allows anyone who knows a little bit about the internet to communicate with their MySQL database to update their website.

It really is an amazing program. For more information, feel free to contact us.

-Let me know if you have any questions,
-Ashton Sanders

Network Solutions Rant v2.3

Network Solutions continues to amaze me. I have a client who bought some very good domain names early in the domain rush, and she purchased them at Network Solutions for $35/year (as opposed to $9/year at godaddy.com or $6/year at 1and1.com).

Can Network Solutions Get Worse?

I wanted to forward one of her domains to 301 redirect to another domain, and after a couple clicks I found that it costs $20/year to forward a domain… and if you didn’t know… that is normally provided for free.

But Network Solutions Can’t get worse than that… Can they?

Yes they can. If you buy a domain at Godaddy, you get 100 email accounts free (or something ridiculous like that). If you want to get email with your Network Solutions domain, it costs $1.34/month for each email account… If you actually ended up using 100 email accounts with Network Solutions, they would charge you $134/month! That’s $1608/year for what you normally get for free at any other registrar…

-If you use network solutions, you obviously haven’t opened your eyes.
-Ashton Sanders

(P.S. If you are someone who actually likes Network Solutions, please shoot me a message with why that is. If you don’t exist, I wouldn’t be surprised.)