I’d like to say thanks again to Ryan of Dao by Design for all his hard work in this Sinosplice redesign. Much of the work that went into the new site was “under the hood,” as Ryan worked out ways for me to move my “WordPress + static file hybrid” site into a modern, fully CMS-managed website. Now I can do everything (all sorts of updates) through the WordPress admin panel, which is enormously convenient. Furthermore, Ryan was really patient and professional about letting me try out some of my ideas. Some of them turned out to be deadends, but I’m really glad I got to try them out. Most often the end result was a design that was simpler, which is certainly a good thing.
One of the goals of this redesign was to make it easier to interlink blog post content and non-blog content, particularly the language-related content. Although this redesign has already done that to a greater extent, the stage is set for me to organize the content much better for the casual visitor.
Now, here are some “before and after” comparison screenshots for fun:
Comments are now temporarily suspended on all blog posts as I prepare to move Sinosplice completely off DreamHost and onto WebFaction, my new host [more info].
On the new host Sinosplice will be sporting a new look (although much will remain the same… especially for you RSS readers!). Still simple and minimalist, but more professional and up-to-date, executed by Ryan of Dao By Design, the China blogosphere’s designer of choice.
Ryan and I will be tweaking the new site over the weekend, so if all goes well the new design will go live and comments will come back on Sunday, February 7th.
I haven’t been posting much lately, but I’ve still been working on this site. I finally chose a new web host so that I can leave DreamHost. The new host is WebFaction, and so far it’s excellent. It’s not quite that simple, though.
WebFaction is excellent because:
– It allows for easy hosting of multiple websites
– It makes its policies on application memory usage completely clear to users (this is the major sin of DreamHost and its ilk)
– It’s fast
– It has affordable dedicated IP solutions (important in case you get blocked by sheer bad luck)
– I wrote the support team on three separate occasions at different times, and each time, they got back to me within 5 minutes. (These weren’t very difficult questions, but still… that’s amazing, coming from DreamHost, which responded in a few hours on good days, in a day on typical days, and NEVER on bad days)
WebFaction is maybe not great for everyone because:
– The control panel seems quite rudimentary after using DreamHost’s, seeing Media Temple’s, and seeing a few others. It really seems quite bare bones. (A few features I asked about were “in development,” but they had other somewhat techy workarounds.)
– The company uses its own unintuitive system for installing “Applications” and pairing them with domains. (I use the word “application” in quotes because not only web apps like WordPress, but also even things like static directories for hosting files count as “applications.”)
The system is actually kind of cool once you get used to it, but it’s definitely not for someone who just wants one simple website. I’ll probably write more about it once I’m fully moved over.
The other way I’ve been spending time on Sinosplice is with a long-overdue redesign. The whole site! More on that later…
I haven’t been blogging much lately because I’ve been looking for a new web host in my spare time. I’ve been with DreamHost for years, but recently their service has become unforgivably bad.
My main complaints are:
- My site was hacked while at DreamHost once. (One time is forgivable)
My site was later hacked again, which was probably due to outdated web app installations (and not the previous hack). But DreamHost proved amazingly unhelpful in shutting out the hacker. I thought I had shut him out once, but I was wrong. The best solution in this case, then, is to back everything up, make sure it’s all clean, then wipe the original installations and start anew. But if I’m going to do all that, I might as well move to a new host that offers better service and better security.
Last weekend my site was down for three days, and DreamHost support never replied to any of my tech requests. I eventually got the attention of a tech support person via live chat, and that person let me know that the security team had actually just moved my site to a different location on the server. Moving it back was trivial. They did it because DreamHost’s WordPress automatic upgrade script creates a backup of the old install (good), but it has a bug which places that directory in a predictable, public location, leaving previous versions’ security exploits online and vulnerable to attack (bad). I was a victim of this bug when I upgraded my WordPress installs, so DreamHost pro-actively (for once) took security measures by moving my entire site’s public directory. They just never told me, and refused to answer my questions. Amazing.
I understand what’s going on here. Basically, I’m the victim of the 80/20 rule. I’m one of those demanding customers who runs multiple sites, and has special needs. It makes a lot more sense for the business to focus on the “easy” customers who have one website that consists entirely of a WordPress install. (Never mind that I’ve brought in lots of referrals over the years, which means more business.)
Anyway, I’ll soon be moving on to a host that still cares more about customer service, and that will be happy to meet my needs. I think I’ve found a good one, but if you have any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them.
(Incidentally, the first one I tried was Media Temple. The server they randomly assigned me was blocked in China, and when I asked to be switched to a server not blocked in China, the support staff promptly directed me to the refund page. Unbelievable.)
2016 Update: I later switched to WebFaction, and have been very satisfied for years. I recommend it!
My web hosting provider, DreamHost, got hacked recently. In an e-mail to me, they wrote:
> We have detected what appears to be the exploit of a number of accounts belonging to DreamHost customers, and it appears that your account was one of those affected.
> We’re still working to determine how this occurred, but it appears that a 3rd party found a way to obtain the password information associated with approximately 3,500 separate FTP accounts and has used that information to append data to the index files of customer sites using automated scripts (primarily for search engine optimization purposes).
> Our records indicate that only roughly 20% of the accounts accessed – less than 0.15% of the total accounts that we host – actually had any changes made to them. Most accounts were untouched.
So yes, I was affected. So was Brendan at Bokane.org. Apparently what the hackers did on my websites was replace every
index.php file with their own copy, which just linked to all kinds of ad sites, and apparently even contained some viruses (probably only an issue for IE users). Anyway, the whole thing is very annoying, but easy enough to undo. (Luckily I do have backups of those files.)
The blog and main page are back to normal, and other pages should be returning to normal in the next few days.
P.S. Has anyone else noticed that a lot of Flickr’s image servers are all of a sudden being blocked in China? Not all Flickr images are blocked, but many are now. For instance, I can no longer see the Chinese doughnut image from my last entry.
I’ve been getting reports of difficulty submitting comments. I’ve been having them too, and in the WordPress interface as well. The commenting difficulties go something like this:
– IE users get a “page cannot be found” error after clicking “submit comment.”
– Firefox users get absolutely nothing after clicking “submit comment.” It looks like it’s working, like a new page is loading, and then it just dies.
I’m not sure what’s causing this. It’s not a China issue, because it’s happening to people outside of China as well. That means it’s either a hosting issue or a WordPress issue. I’m guessing it’s the latter, probably caused by a plugin. I’ll try to fix it soon, but I don’t have a lot of free time on my hands.
In the meantime, you can still submit comments. IE users, hit back and submit again. Repeat as necessary. Firefox users, just click and wait for it to go through. Repeat as necessary.
Sorry for the inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.
Anyone who lives in China and maintains a website knows that it can be difficult. Websites are frequently blocked and unblocked for no discernible reason. Maintaining your website from China may become extremely difficult (if not impossible) if it is blocked in China. With this in mind, choosing a hosting service for your website can be tricky.
This article assumes you are looking for professional hosting which offers ample online disk space, reasonable bandwidth limits, MySQL databases, e-mail accounts, etc. MySQL databases (or some form of database) are necessary to run advanced blogging software like WordPress or Movable Type.
I have removed the comment function from this blog. Hopefully it will only be temporary. The reason is comment spam.
Although I actually see very little comment spam thanks to MT Blacklist, my comment script still gets hit hard by the spammers, who are then denied by MT Blacklist. Unfortunately, all those hits to the comment script put quite a strain on the server. That’s why my host disabled my comment script several times in the past.
A few days ago when my host disabled it again, I asked them to re-enable it, as usual. When they did, it was hit again so quickly and so hard that it crashed the server repeatedly. My host banned the comment script.
I changed the filename and put the script back online for a short time, but the problem would definitely be back as soon as the spammers caught on to the new filename. So I have removed the comment function in order to avoid getting booted by my host (which is, for the most part, a very good host).
The source of the problem is twofold. The main source, of course, is the spammers. But they’re not going away, and there’s nothing I can do about it. The other source is Movable Type’s poor design. The comment script is written in such a way that it takes up way too many server resources. I can do something about that.
If I want to keep the comment function, the only solution I see is to switch from Movable Type to some other blogware. I’ve been toying with the idea for a while, because I’d like to get away from the hassle of static pages and go dynamic. Serendipity and Textpattern are most appealing to me. Both are powerful PHP-based blogging platforms. (Yes, I know about WordPress; I’m not very interested.) Although both can import my Movable Type entries, I’m not sure if either can import all my comments. That’s a big deal to me; I want to keep all these comments. So I’m not sure what to do yet. I would really appreciate suggestions (by e-mail) from anyone who has experience with this.
I don’t like having to disable comments. I really enjoy getting feedback on what I write here. But this is the way it’s going to have to be for a few weeks, probably.