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Choosing Web Hosting — What to look for?

I’ve had several friends, and even some family ask me my opinions on general web hosting, and there’s only a select few names in the business I’ve come to recommend.   In general, ignore the price, start figuring out what you want, THEN price shop.

Let’s Look at the basic terms used in web hosting-

Storage Space
Storage space in regards to web hosting is basically referring to anything that you store on your hosting account, FTP, web content, and email all included.  Really the only thing that can eat through storage space is email, photos, file sharing, and video.  If you’re uploading tons of high resolution photos form a modern DSLR, using your website to send large files to friends, or uploading every holiday video known to man, you’re going to need a ton of space.  For the rest of us, space isn’t an issue.  For email, I recommend Google for your domain, which is a service Google provides, basically like Gmail, except it allows you to take your current email address with you, and take the load off of your hosting account.

Bandwidth
Bandwidth refers to the amount of data transmitted through the server that you’re on.  Let’s say I have a 1mb file and 10 people download it, I’ve now used slightly over 10mb of data.  To put things in perspective, I use about 15GB of transfer on this blog each month, mainly because I use hidden folders on my personal hosting account to transfer files back and forth to work and school as I need them.  If you’re JUST transferring web sized photos to friends and family, you will struggle to use even 5gb of data transfer.  If you’re a company that has several files to download on the site, or tutorial videos you can easily blow through 10-15GB.  In general, if you’re looking at a new website, the typical 30gb or more is plenty, and you can always increase this as you grow.

Dedicated Server
A dedicated server is extremely useful if you’re in need of custom programs aside from the basic php/sql/apache that nearly every server on the market today runs.  For 99% of the world, it’s unnecessary!  The pro’s are that you don’t share the box with anyone else, so a security vulnerability, non terminating programming loop, or other negative things on someone else’s server won’t effect you.

Virtual Private Server
Virtual Private Servers (VPS’s for short) are useful if you need to install a few custom apps, but don’t really have the need to be on your own server for performance reasons.  Typically this is what you’ll want to look at once you outgrow shared hosting (we’ll discuss this in a bit!), but before you’re ready for an all out dedicated box.

Shared Hosting-
This is what the majority of the web is run on, Shared Servers.  Just like when you were in college and realized that you could share an apartment and split the bills in half, you can share a server, too!  This blog for instance, is being run on SharkSpace’s reseller hosting package.  This package meets all of my needs with room to grow, and costs less than $25/month, far less than the virtual private server or dedicated server options.  It comes prepackaged with a server management software called WHM/Cpanel which allows me to create sub accounts, and allows those accounts to manage their own site specific settings.

Now let’s move on to some aspects less often discussed!

Support-
Especially if you’re running a business online, support should be the FIRST thing you consider when choosing a hosting provider. Companies like RackSpace are filled with some of the most knowledgeable staff in the business, and willing to help you at any hour of the day.  The company I work for hosts our dedicated servers through RackSpace, and I continue to be amazed at how great the service is.  Other great companies I’ve used when it comes to support are SharkSpace (my current web host) and Idologic.

Hardware-
It’s no secret that Linux is a great OS for slower machines, but don’t let that fool you, you NEED processing power to run the dynamic portions of today’s content management systems and blogs.  Just a single page on this blog has to do a database call to find all of the unique months that I’ve posted a blog, all of the categories, the site name, the first 10 posts to show on the page, all of the photo galleries, etc….the point is, even a single page view involves a lot of database interaction these days.  Budget web hosts often skimp here, as you can install all of the latest versions of common software packages and market it as a new setup, however it becomes painful to browse your website.

Posted 8 years, 9 months ago.

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Google Voice — Why it’s AWESOME!

About 2 years ago, I registered for Grand Central, which was at the time a free way to get a local Orlando phone number for my apartment gate call-box, since they didn’t allow long distance numbers.  At that time, text messaging was too expensive on my plan, and I never really used it.  Since then, I’ve gotten a work phone with unlimited texting, and I’ve gotten a text messaging plan on my personal phone.  Keeping 2 phones on me at all times just seems silly, especially after 7pm, where unlimited calling is free on my work iPhone….well Google has a solution for that.

The basic idea behind Google Voice is that you’re given 1 phone number, and it then forwards to virtually unlimited other phones.  This is very handy for people like myself, as I can give out 1 number to all my friends, and then after 7pm forward it to my work phone, and during the day forward it to my personal cell phone.

A few handy features

  • You can set “Emergency Contacts” as a group and during work hours, set the “Do Not Disturb” feature so that no phone calls come through except a few close friends/family who you can trust to only call you at work if it’s an absolute emergency.
  • You can text via your computer keyboard if you’re at the computer and someone txt’s you.  Much faster than using the phone.
  • You can call your own phone number and then use that to make a call to avoid long distance fees.
  • You can forward calls to the FREE Gizmo In, so that you don’t pay for minutes use when you’re near any computer with a high speed connection.
  • You can block certain callers.
  • If your minutes are running low, you can add your Google Voice number to your “My Circle” or unlimited calling plan, and all calls from this number won’t be charged for if you have Verizon or Tmobile’s free calling from xx different numbers.su
  • Supports call screening.  This is where you answer, and it says “__________ is calling, press 1 to receive, or hang up”.  It forces callers to leave their name, so if it’s an unknown number, you know who it is before you talk to them.
  • Voice Mail To Text – Converts voice mails into a text message so that you don’t have to listen to them. It’s not 100% accurate, but I almost always get the point of the message and don’t listen to them.
  • Emailing Voice Mail – Voice Mail’s will be emailed to you in mp3 format so you can save them if you wish.

Posted 8 years, 9 months ago.

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Looking Back…my best courses at UCF

Well, my final semester is fast approaching at UCF…amazing how fast that went.  Filling out the intent to graduate was an interesting tidbit, it really makes you think about what you learned!  I thought it would be a neat blog post to link to when some friends who are up and coming at UCF ask me “Which courses should I take!?!?”.

Computer Science 2 (COP3502) – I won’t even lie, I struggled in this one.  If you’re not a Computer Science student, stay away!  The course is currently being taught by Ben Douglas, and focuses on algorithm analysis.  The course starts off really easy, and after the first exam it gets incredibly hard.  The course is designed with a recitation, and I really think that most people who fail it, do not attend.  Ben is one of the most knowledgeable professors I’ve had at UCF, but sometimes that comes at the expense of him talking over your head in class.  If this happens, be sure to have the TA go over it in recitation, as topics build on each other, and the tests are near impossible to guess on.  Topics in the course include backtracking, sorting algorithms, brute force, object oriented programming, graphs, and many more.  All tests and assignments are Java based.  Tests are closed notes & closed book.  The course does not have a set grading scale, the final grades are determined by the overall class average after the final exam.

Digital Investigative Technologies (CET4885) – (Click for syllabus) This course isn’t terribly difficult due to the fact that Dr. Philip Craiger has really taken his time to produce a very thorough selection of course materials (no book required), but it does take a lot of your time to complete the projects.  The course begins by teaching you how to take a digital clone of a hard drive to avoid messing up the “evidence”, and explains data collection methods to ensure that your investigation will hold up in court.  After that, the course will teach you how to modify the access dates of files and recover deleted files in Linux by hand using only tools freely available online. Once you understand how these tools work, the course then introduces a few professional tools that you will need in order to complete the final project.  One of the most hands on courses in the UCF Information Technology curriculum, I recommend this course to any student.  One final word of advice…do not ask a question answered in materials already given to you, and don’t ask something that’s easy to find out with a Google search.  Dr. Craiger really forces students to seek out answers on their own as a first option just like you will have to in the real world when you get a job.  He’s not someone who got a PhD and never had a real job outside of teaching, so his methods are different than professors you might have had before.

Database Concepts (CGS2545) – Database Concepts is taught by Robert Koeneke, but the most useful portion of the course (the lab) has projects and slides developed by Dr. Mark Llewellyn.  The slides teach you all of the basics on creating a Microsoft Access database, starting from modifying existing databases, creating queries, reports, new tables, and eventually developing your own database.  The step by step instructions are great, and the pace is very good as well.  A final project in the course is worth a large portion of your grade.  This course is very hands on as well, and after completing it, I feel that I have the knowledge to create a database for anything that I currently have a need for.  My only complaint is that the course spends a bit too much time on database planning, and too little time focusing on combined/advanced queries, as these felt very rushed to get in before the final exam.

Posted 8 years, 10 months ago.

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Jailbreaking my iPhone

So I finally took the time to research how to jailbreak my iPhone a few weeks back, and I thought that I would make a post on some of the cool apps that you can get from a jailbroken iPhone that you can’t get from the apple store.  Mine was jailbroke using tools found here.

Cydia
Cydia is the “hacked iPhone’s” replacement to the app store.  While the app store remains fully functional, Cydia allows users to search far more apps, as you bypass the fees that Apple charges to let programmers sell their software within Apple’s app store, and also allows you to get blocked apps, suck as GV Voice, which I’ll discuss later.

Cydia iPhone App

SBSettings
This is perhaps the most useful app that I’ve found.  You simply swipe your finger across the top of your iPhone’s display and it lists several frequently accessed settings that you can flip on/off with a single touch, much easier than going through a series of settings menu.  Most helpful is the ability to turn off 3g when I’m on campus, since we have Wifi, no need to waste the battery.
SB Settings iPhone App

GV Mobile
GV Mobile enables you to use your Google Voice account to text message free, as well as place calls.  The nice part about this, is that it prevents people from seeing your real phone number.  This is helpful to those of us who have 2 or more phone numbers, as limiting everyone to only your Google Voice number empowers you to switch which phone all calls go to, screen calls, receive SMS via the internet, as well as block certain numbers at certain times of day.

GV Mobile iPhone App

Posted 8 years, 11 months ago.

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