Product Review: HostGator hosting
HostGator has been the most reliable web host I’ve had the chance to host with. Having been a web master and designer for almost 15 years I’ve tried dozens of different web hosting companies for both client sites and my own. Sure, there are many cheaper web hosts available but with hosting you really get what you pay for- unless you’re with HostGator where you get a lot more bang for your buck.
This review is likely going to sound like a sale pitch or an advertisement from HostGator and I do apologize for that. This is an honest review from a fellow web master trying to offer valuable assistance to those who are looking for affordable and professional web hosts.
One of the problems with the cheaper web hosts is the lack of a month-to-month billing feature. When you down to the $5 per month range most companies will not offer monthly billing. If you’re just starting out with your first web site you’ll probably be weary of paying for an entire year of hosting up front. For under $10 a month (paid monthly) HostGator offers a wide range of services that’ll get you up and running as fast as possible and keep your site that way. The cheapest plan is available for under $4 per month if paid for three years in advance. The prices may chance occasionally and they often offer sale prices around the holidays.
HostGator’s best feature, in my opinion, is their 24/7 help chat. This isn’t phone support to a grumpy individual across the border. You can log into their chatroom any time of the day or night and talk with someone who knows how to help you. Both the sales staff and technical staff are available 24/7/365 and I’ve used them all hours of the night! There is sometimes a wait in the afternoons of about 5-10 minutes before a chat technician gets a hold of you but it works great to get questions answered.
HostGator has hosting packages for everyone. If your site is tiny or huge, an individual domain or you want to host multiple domains under one account they have a package for you. If you’re looking into becoming a web host reseller they have awesome packages for that as well. I’ve hosted 5 full web sites under their cheapest account package for many years and haven’t run into any problems. The staff there created a special reseller account for me, too, so if you need something more flexible to your needs just let them know. They are always happy to help make sure you get what you need and are happy.
Without getting too technical, HostGator has Cpanel hosting and has full support for Perl, PHP and MySQL. A really nice feature is an automatic Perl module installer built into the Cpanel. Very few web hosts offer the ability to install virtually any Perl module on the fly in your own account! If you’re a Perl developer this will probably be the most useful feature you’ll ever find. Of course they have connections with all the big PHP scripts like shopping carts, blogs, etc that are one-click installs.
In my experience and in my opinion, HostGator is without a doubt the best web host for the money. With their 24/7 help staff and their unmatched Cpanel and hosting I wouldn’t bother hosting elsewhere. I’ve been a loyal customer for years now and their services keep getting better and better. Go ahead and try them. They have a full 45 day money back guarantee program so if you’re not happy, cancel and they’ll gladly refund you. You won’t cancel though- trust me.
Product Review: POSTIE for WordPress
For the WordPress bloggers there aren't many choices to post to your blog via email. POSTIE is the biggest or most well-known plugin to allow users to send emails to themselves and have them turned into WordPress posts automatically. It really is a neat idea and a good feature to have.
The lack of documentation for POSTIE is absurd. The author of the module/widget didn't take the time to document how to get it to work the way it is supposed to. It also doesn't contain any examples of the emailformatting required for a successful email to post conversion. After a fewhours of trying to get the TAG function to work (the ability to add tags to the post) I tried consulting other web sites to see if they could figure it out and to my surprise, there wasn't anyone who could get it to workconsistently.
POSTIE allows you to add titles, tags and categories to the post but it never shows you how to do it. It appears the tags have to appear in a very specific order or they won't be read at all. However, after trying to use the TAGS function at the top and at the bottom neither showed more orless successful than the other. Sometimes it worked, most times it didn't. The other functions appeared to work okay. TAGS does not work so if that is important for you, you will need to use an alternative for POSTIE.
After successfully posting a few dozen test posts to Ask-A-Geek (minus TAGS, of course) I decided to look closer to the formatting of the posts and make sure everything looked how it was supposed to. After looking at every one of my posts I noticed a bug so large that it means one of two things. The author of POSTIE is an incompetent programmer, or worse- a lazy one.Any time an apostrophe ' is found in the email or post, it gets removed completely and replaced with a spacebar key. That means for everyone who likes to use contractions (can't, won't, shouldn't, her's) had messed up formatting and really screwed up words.
The hen's house had no roof!
The hen s house had no roof!
There is no fix for this bug. If you can type everything without contractions then this doesn't mean much for you, but for everyone else youwill regret installing and using POSTIE.
The last thing I wanted to mention was how POSTIE actually posts to WordPress. After looking through the code to see why the apostrophes weren't working I noticed that the plugin works with the database directly. For most widgets or plugins for WordPress this wouldn't be much of a problem. However when you're dealing with actual posts then you're opening a world of security problems. WordPress has a lot of built-in security filters to make sure the data is clean when it is submitted into the database. POSTIE avoids these filters and checkers completely and posts anything you want straight to the database. What's so bad about that? If someonefigured out what email address you need to submit to AND what email address you need to submit from (it is easy to mask the FROM email address to make it look like it came from you when it really didn't), they could inject MySQL code into the database and modify or delete everything you have.
In short, POSTIE is bug prone and does not post emails to WordPress in any functional manner. Even if the bugs get fixed someday it's hard to trust a developer who releases untested and undocumented products. From asecurity stand point you risk losing all the data stored in WordPress if you use the POSTIE plugin. I recommend finding another alternative before it's too late.
Product Review: Roomba vacuums
What could be geekier than having a robotic vacuum clean the floors in your home so you don’t have to? The pioneer of the robotic vacuum market is without a doubt the iRobot corp. with their Roomba series. Most people who are interested in the market for robotic vacuums have already heard about Roomba- and anyone who frequents the Deal-A-Day site Woot.com has surely seen these on sale at every wootoff.
Here are some questions many people have asked me about Roombas. Believe it or not most people who come and ask me about them do decide to buy one. It’s just a geek thing for me. It’s one of the most practical and useful toys a geek can have in his or her arsenal!
How loud are Roombas?
They aren’t quite as loud as upright vacuums but they aren’t exactly stealthy. Don’t imagine yourself sitting in front of the TV as Roomba cleans the living room as you’ll find yourself cranking up the TV volume. Most people make them clean while theyre heading off for work.
Do Roombas clean as good as normal vacuums?
From personal experience they clean far better than commercial vacuums. Day one of my first Roomba we ran it 3 times and each time the dust bin came back full of cat hair and dust bunnies. Even the ones that aren’t designed for cat hair work VERY well on collecting strands all over the place. It has brushes and suction power just like a typical vacuum. One of the nicest features is the small form factor of Roomba allows it to travel under couches, chairs and beds where you can’t normally clean. So in some ways it works better than an upright simply because it can go into deep dark spaces.
Do Roombas clean hardwood floors?
This is where Roombas lose a little respect. They can clean hard floors but they clean carpet MUCH better. The spinning brush on the side of the Roomba often pushes crumbs around the floor instead of picking them up. It can do a fairly decent job but using a broom is often the quicker and cleaner way to go about it. However, Roombas do a fantastic job and transitioning between carpet and hard floors (or even from carpet to a rug).
How long do Roombas take to clean?
Most of the Roomba series have two cleaning options. One is a spot clean which cleans a single spot of the floor. You put it in the middle of the spot, click spot, and Roomba will clean a six foot circle. This only takes a couple minutes and works great for spills. The main clean option will run endlessly until the battery runs low. It doesn’t stop when it thinks the floors are clean- it’ll run until it knows it’s about to run out of juice. For those that get the docking station feature, the Roomba will then try to locate and navigate back to the docking station for charging. The 570 model gets somewhere around a 90 minute clean time off a full charge.
How often should you clean the dust bin?
If the floors are dirty it is best to clean it after every run. However if you run your Roomba almost daily then you can probably go a few days before cleaning it. The dust bins aren’t huge but they do hold a considerable amount of garbage.
What other maintenance is there on a Roomba?
Depending on the model, you’ll probably have to clean the air filter every week or so. It doesn’t hurt to also remove the brushes and clean those as well (they tend to pick up a lot of hair that just wraps around the brush). Overall if you spend 5 minutes cleaning it a week you’re still way ahead of everyone who still uses traditional vacuums.
Do Roombas still get tangled in cables and cords?
They used to get stuck in the 4xx series but since Ive upgraded to the 5xx series it hasn’t got stuck on a cord yet. It runs them over all the time and it does move the lightweight cords around a little bit but it hasn’t once picked them up and got stuck.
Do Roombas fall down stairs?
Dating back to the 4xx series they all have built-in sensors preventing them from falling down the stairs. You’ll likely be hesitant like I was (and still am) about this feature since Roombas aren’t cheap but on a few occasions I tested this feature out and the Roomba behaved how it should.
Do people really name their Roombas?
Yes! As funny as it sounds, yes! A lot of people name their Roombas. My first Roomba was named iBob and the one currently running around my floors is Groomba (it was a wedding giftJ )
If you have any other questions, feel free to use the form to send them in. I love answering questions or sharing my experiences with the Roomba.
Product review: Sun and Moon Jars (ThinkGeek)
For many ThinkGeekers, the idea of a geek toy that illuminates the dark abyss we call night can be very intriguing. It is true- most geeks are afraid of the dark. Well, not really the dark but the scary things that seem to come out only as the sun goes down (The Mist, anyone?).
After battling with the idea of purchasing a Sun or Moon jar from ThinkGeek for quite some time I was lucky enough to receive the Sun jar as a Christmas gift. As excited as I was to tear it open and see what it could do, the batteries were dead on arrival! Not that that is uncommon but it was a little disheartening as it needs direct sunlight to charge and in Saint Paul, MN there isnt a whole lot of that going around during the Christmas season. We set it up near the window in hopes it would charge before the next dreadful night.
The next night after the sun went down the Sun Jar was merrily glowing and, like magic, made the night that much less frightening. It was really neat to see the glowing power after just one day of solar charging. It glows quite well but it doesnt really brighten up the room. Unless youre looking in its general direction you wouldnt even know it was there. The Sun Jar from ThinkGeek has a soft warm glow to it but it doesnt share it well with its surroundings.
Our Sun Jar is used every day to glow in our toddlers room and he loves having it around at night! Every morning we move it to another room in the house that gets the most natural sunlight. When nightfall comes we move it back into our toddlers room. This will probably be the most typical behavior unless the room youll be using the Sun or Moon jar in gets a lot of sunlight during the day. Moving the jar every day can be tiresome but it is absolutely worth it!
Whats inside of the Sun Jar:
The sun jar is essentially a cloudy mason jar. There is a light bulb in the middle with a solar power charger and battery right underneath the lid. The battery inside is a AA rechargeable so if it were ever to die out, it can simply be replaced with another rechargeable. The lid is closed with a metal clasp that is quite secure. The lid is lined with a plastic/rubber to make it withstand the forces of nature for those who brave it enough to allow their Sun or Moon jars to live outdoors. Structurally the Sun and Moon jars are built solid and I anticipate it will last quite some time unless it gets dropped.
On a geeky note: the solar power panel is visible under the lid when the jar is open. It would be possible to tweak it a bit and add your own solar panel on it J
How to use the Sun or Moon Jar:
The first thing that you need to do is open clasp of the Sun or Moon jar and find the switch inside. The switch says automatic or charge. Flip it to charge and let it sit for a solid day near a sunny window. At the end of the day flip the switch back to automatic. When the Sun or Moon jar find a dark room it will automatically emit its awesome glowing beauty. It actually glows brighter the darker the room is.
It is a good idea to flip the switch to charge every day you want to use it. The automatic feature does not charge it (or at least not very well). Then when you want it to run, flip it over to automatic.
The Sun and Moon jar can last all night:
Weve found, under most circumstances, that the Sun or Moon jar can last the entire night and still have enough juice to glow through the first hours of the morning. By this time the glow is quite dim but you can tell the Sun or Moon jar doesnt call it quits just because the sun is coming up.
For it to last all night you need a really good day of sunshine.
Is the Sun and Moon jar worth the $36?
The price is steep for a geek toy that glows but doesnt illuminate a room but if you were to find it on sale Id say its absolutely worth it. It isnt built cheaply so it should easily last you a few years. And if youre one of those geeks who are afraid of the dark, these would work very nicely on your nightstand. It glows just enough for you to see it but not enough to keep you awake.
The Sun and Moon jars can be purchased from ThinkGeek.com @ http://www.thinkgeek.com/homeoffice/lights/994a/.