Run a site on the cheap

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Do you have a personal site or blog? How much do you pay for it? If you are like most people who host their own blog, you more than likely pay around $5 or $10 a month, and another $10 a year for your domain. This comes out to around $100 a year.

Let me tell you how I keep my blog up for under $30 a year. (It would be under $20 but I bought a second domain for my URL shortener).

Ever since I switched to 1&1 internet I have been dissatisfied. No really big problems with them that would make me recommend against them; I just felt they weren’t right for me. I don’t like their billing policies (why charge for my hosting in February then for the domain in March?), I don’t care for their control panel, I don’t like the way the user and host of my MySQL database are even more obfuscated than the password I randomly generated.

I had been thinking of packing up and moving to Lifehacker favorite Namecheap for a while anyway, so when Namecheap offered a to let me move my domain for cheap while helping wildlife, just as my 1&1 account was due for renewal, I took it as a sign from [insert deity here].

I already had an account with NearlyFreeSpeech.net, one of Lifehackers five best personal web hosts. Rather than charge you by the month, they charge you by usage. However, this will almost always come out cheaper for a personal site. It may even be cheaper for a big professional site. They have a calculator so you can get an estimate of how much your site will cost, and I will be quite suprised if it is more than you are paying now. They are also the only host I know of that doesn’t make you pay a premium for SSH access; everyone gets SSH included in their hosting. You can sign up and feel your way around for free before you invest any money, and they don’t lock you into any contracts. They aren’t as easy to use as some hosts, but if you are familiar with Unix/Linux or the Mac OS X command line, you should be okay.

You don’t want to host your domain with them, though. For one thing, you are limited to a few TLDs. For another, domains cost about the same everywhere, but NFSN doesn’t have an affiliate program. Get your domain somewhere else that has one, then you can make use of that to pick up a few bucks on the side. Again, I recommend Namecheap.

Another reason is that you’ll pay around $10 a year for email forwarding from NFSN. Hosting it elsewhere lets you use their (probably cheaper) email forwarding to your existing email account, or you can set up Google Apps for your domain for free, as long as you aren’t going to have many users.

After you have set up your NFSN and Namecheap accounts, you will need to set up your domain to point to your site. Set up to use the NFSN DNS, and then follow the directions in this FAQ entry.

At this point you are already going to save a lot of money on your site, but you can really crank up your savings using CloudFlare. CF is for servers what OpenDNS is for clients: it handles their DNS for them, while adding safety and speed features on as an added bonus. It is free and really easy to set up; so easy I’m not going to walk you through it. Once it is set up, though, it will cache several of your resources, saving on bandwidth charges from NFSN while speeding up your site. After it is working, cancel your DNS from NFSN (CF replaces it anyway) to save an extra $3.65 a year.

 

Make sure you have plenty of time before doing any of this though: there are several DNS changes required through this entire process, each of which can take hours. If you use OpenDNS (and you should) then their CacheCheck feature can help, but you can still spend an entire weekend easily moving your site. However, the savings can be well worth it.

Great job, Ubuntu developers!

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I must tip my hat to the developers of Ubuntu.

My wife’s friend Michael isn’t quite computer literate. He was complaining to my wife about how he always got viruses. She told him how we don’t since we use Linux instead of Windoze. He didn’t understand how you can use a computer without Windoze on it. She told him we would give him an install disk so he can try it out. I handed him the disk and told him to follow instructions.

About an hour later he called, asking where all his stuff was. He had successfully installed Linux without any help, but was confused by the default empty desktop, since the installer told him it had imported all his crap. I pointed him over the phone to the “Places” menu, and he got it. He wasn’t online last I heard because he had to find out what his grandpa’s router’s WPA key was, but other than those tiny hitches, someone who didn’t even know you could replace Windoze managed to install Ubuntu with no help!

If you have a good connection and a burner, why not download Ubuntu yourself, and give it a try too? You can run it side by side with Windoze, and delete it if you don’t like it after a week or two, so you have nothing to lose, but a great deal of frustration.

Code Ignitor

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I am building some apps just for myself with the open source Code Ignitor framework. I have always stayed away from frameworks. Not because I feel they make you lazy (lazy programmer = productive programmer = happy programmer), I just don’t like having to bend my code to the way someone else thinks I should write it. I normally stay away from any library that offers more than two or three functions, but after playing with CI trying to go back to straight PHP just feels clunky.

The main nice things about making your own web apps is that:

  1. You don’t have to worry about licensing issues
  2. You can hard code in stuff such as passwords and preferences
  3. You don’t have to include everything.

That last item could use some explaining. When you create a normal web app, you need to consider everything that a user could want to do and either include or ignore it. When you are making something that you will be the only one to use, you only have to worry about the stuff that you want to do often. The little one-off cases (such as changing a password) can be done directly in source files or SQL. No sense spending an entire afternoon allowing yourself to change a password when you can do it directly from the command line, and you will only do so every couple of months.

If you are looking to escape from both proprietary web apps and being tied to a single computer (or syncing files) I would recommend that you download CodeIgnitor, read the user guide, and make it yourself.

Free as in speech…

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The open source movement’s motto has long been “Free as in speech, not as in beer.” Of course, I go for both as I am poor 🙂

After reading Features vs Freedom, I realized that I use mostly non-free software. I had thought myself big on free software, but had not considered the fact that web apps aren’t really free. I use a lot of Google’s web apps. Nearly all of them, in fact. I am trying to change that.

I am still using GMail because my web host’s POP and IMAP servers don’t seem to work. However, I have weaned myself from my favorite Google app, Reader, for Vienna, a desktop aggregator. I am also using the bookmarks built into my browser, (Camino), instead of Google’s bookmarks.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love the way Google makes their stuff, I just want to have as much freedom as possible. This is my computer, after all. Shouldn’t I be able to control the stuff on it?

Bonus tip: If you use Privoxy (which you should) try enabling user.filter (in Privoxy/config then paste these two lines in it:

FILTER: noscripts Kill all <script> tags
[email protected](</?)(script)[^>]*>@$1no$2><a href="https://twitter.com/intent/user?screen_name=gU">@gU</a>

Combine that with the build in filter for JS events and you can disable JS on a site by site basis. Comes in handy.

An open letter to Conservative Christians

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It has been a while since I have written a religious article, but after seeing this flash video (via digg, satire of The God Delusion) I felt like I had to say something.

I don’t see how you people have such a problem believing that science and religion can complement each other. I have, in fact, mentioned this before. I know that the Bible is God’s Word, but think about this: do you know Greek? Hebrew? Aramaic?

Most people believe that the most accurate translation of the Bible is the King James version. However, if you research this translation even a tiny bit, you will find that it is an English translation of a German translation of a Latin translation of the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, and each of these translations was copied hundreds of time by hand. One translation of the game Zerowing left us with “How are you gentlemen. All your base are belong to us.” What do you think that the Bible going through all these people has done?

On top of that, the Bible is open to interpretation. Look for anything in there about not having sex outside of marriage. I did. For days. The closest that is there is that lust (sex without love) is bad. Yet you are so sure that that means extramarital sex is a sin. That is an interpretation, try doing the same thing on other parts every now and then.

Don’t you think that God would have spoken to people thousands of years ago in words that they would understand? There was no way to express to Paul the Sagans of years old the universe is. Evolution would make no sense to Abraham. What would Malaci care about dinosaurs?

What makes you think that God didn’t spend Sagans of years getting everything perfect for us? Didn’t orchestrate us evolving from Cro-Magnons the same way he orchestrated the Apostles performing miracles in Acts?

Another point of view: if you are right, so? The thing that matters is accepting Jesus, right? If you tell someone, “If you believe in that you can’t believe in God” and “that” can be proven, do you think the person you are talking to will be accepting Jesus?

Open your minds, people, and quit trying to act like you know more than everyone else.