Category Archives: Hosting

Green sites, dead pixels and Remote Desktop

Keep your web site green by hosting it in an environmentally sustainable data centre.

Unstick your dead pixels by flashing rapid colour changes through them. 60% success rate, apparently. What have you got to lose?

These guys claim to have got round the limitation of Windows XP Remote Desktop of only one user at a time, by replacing one of the Terminal Server DLLs with that from an older build of SP2.

Ad blocking begins to have an economic effect

So I was checking out copper (as you do), and followed the wikipedia copper entry link to EnvironmentalChemistry.com’s copper data, and I discovered that ad blockers are beginning to change the economics of the web. The web site whinged that they had detected ad blocking, and if I wanted to get the content I’d have to turn it off (and provided directions – which I followed, but it just turned out to be a bunch of atomic numbers and covalent bonds and useless crap like that).

The economics of a lot of the web are not dissimilar to those of free-to-air television; there’s a covenant between the producers (broadcasters/webauthors) and the consumers – we will let this stuff out to anyone, and you will consume our advertising. Advertisers give the producers cash to cover the costs of publishing. There’s a profit in it, and everyone’s happy.

Except that consumers have decided they don’t like the deal anymore. People are taping TV shows, and skipping the ads. People are using ad blockers in their browsers. The economics of the model are breaking down. I personally am behaving this way because I find the advertising increasingly intrusive and irrelevant, and thus annoying. The ads suck, for products that suck, and they’re shoved down my throat. So I avoid them. This is how a character in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact became the richest man on earth – by selling TV ad blockers.

The three outcomes I can forecast from this are:

  1. increased relevance of advertising (unlikely, the reason advertising is necessary is because of an inherent suckiness of the products, otherwise they’d be compelling)
  2. decreased expenditure on content provision (on TV, cheaper nastier shows – if that’s possible; on the web, uneconomic sites being pulled or at least not updated)
  3. product placement, which is a bit like 1, ‘cept different because it’s more about appropriate products in appropriate places

I for one have no idea how this will play out, but I’m sure advertising will get more subtle. It’s done that over the last century, and will continue to in response to increasing consumer sophistication. Perhaps advertisers will find a way to back off, and only offer their products to customers who want them; they certainly want to act that way, because it’s a waste of money advertising women’s sanitary napkins to the gay male viewers of Friends — unless they’re planning to fix their car’s leaky roof with one.

BTW, how did they figure out I was blocking their ads?

Any GeoCities users

For anybody who dabbles in GeoCities, they’re doing a little cleanup which means rarely accessed or updated sites may get the flick:

“We noticed that you haven’t updated your web site in a while. If you wish to keep your web site, we encourage you to update it within the next 30 days so that it will not be deleted due to inactivity. If your web site is deleted, visitors will no longer be able to access your web site and all files will be permanently deleted.”

I took a look at my site (which has bugger all on it) and got this warning:

Geocities Inactive warning

If you’ve got a site you occasionally glance at, now would be a good time to tinker a bit. And grab a copy of whatever’s on it, if you don’t already have it.

Okay, we’re running

Obviously in a geek blog, you should blog about how the blog got setup.

Domain name. Geekrant.com and .net were already taken, but .org was free. I registered it with Gandi. They’re a French company, have been around for a while. I think I first encountered them some years ago in a list of domain registrars. At the time they were up near the top of the recommended registrars not only for being reasonably cheap and reliable, but also for having a domain registration policy that precluded all sorts of the kind of legal mumbo jumbo that some other registrars had at the time, which theoretically gave you rather less than complete control over your domain. Whatever the reason I originally went with them, they’ve been good over the years, and provide useful stuff like free domain and e-mail forwarding. At 12 Euros a year, perhaps not the cheapest around, but reliable and quick. Quicker than I thought, actually. I assume Those In Charge have improved the speed of new domain propagation over the last few years, because everything seemed to be done after a couple of hours.

Hosting. The hosting is at Aussie Hosts, a mob in Brisbane who specialise in shared hosting on Linux, and using the Plesk7 web site control software, which is frikkin’ marvellous. I’ve never come across a web control panel quite so useful and user-friendly. It does everything, and is light-years ahead of most of the other very clunky web control panels I’ve seen.

Software. Installing WordPress is dead easy. Upload the files into the http directory, create the MySql directory and its user in Plesk, then run WordPress’s install script. That’s it. It creates all the tables, creates the initial user, and away you go. Then I logged-on to WordPress and created the users, set the various options like comment spam parameters, and structure of permalinks. For the latter it tells you what your .htaccess needs to look like. You just paste it into the file and you’re done. (Admittedly it shat itself the first time I tried it. I wiped it out, and tried it again a bit later. Not sure what was different the second time, but it worked.)

Template. For WordPress’s templates, you basically need to edit: index.php (the main page), wp-layout.css (the stylesheet), and wp-comments.php (the comments section, which for some reason WP’s default installation has quirks like the caption for the comment fields appearing after the fields themselves. Wacky). I’m not entirely a master of CSS yet, so I just fiddled with the fonts and colours, and fiddled a bit with the links and so on. I’ve messed the template up slightly — right now the XHTML validation gets a thumbs-down. Will fix that when I get the chance to look at it.

We started creating a (perhaps over-ambitious) hierarchy of categories for articles to fall into. Hmm. Probably should have just copied out of DMOZ or Yahoo or something. (Just the hierarchy that is. If you look around, it’s incredible the number of directory sites that have swiped content completely from Yahoo.)

Also created a basic logo in my trusty old copy of Corel Photopaint, added in a Google advert to try and recoup some of the hosting and domain name costs, and that’s about it for now. Further fiddling can (and no doubt will) come later.