image of laptops connected to WWW

A New Web Host – Linode

image of laptops connected to WWWJust before the New Years holiday I moved this site to a new web host, Linode. I’ve been with Slicehost for just over two years and don’t have any complaints and think they’re great. There’s an interesting thread on the Slicehost forum about how other vendors have matched and exceeded Slicehost’s offerings. In the thread even Slicehost has admitted they stagnated and haven’t taken advantage of the resources available to them through Rackspace which purchased them about a year ago. That’s part of my reason for shopping around, the same plan at the same price after two years. There were some other hosts that offered more for the same or less money. I  moved because I get more of what I need for the same cost (well, actually a nickel a month less).

I like using a VPS (virtual private server) for my websites. It gives me a lot of control and nearly unlimited flexibility so I wasn’t looking for anything different. I wanted more memory, either by having more physical memory or by more efficient memory usage.

Finally, I’m not running a business. While reliability performance are important, as is good tech support when it’s needed, I’m not willing to pay a premium “just in case”.

Slicehost provided 10GB of disk and 100GB of bandwidth to go with my 256MB of RAM on the slice. The only thing that really mattered to me was the RAM. I never even came close to my bandwidth limits, likewise on the disk space. Slicehost offers only 64-bit OS’s (actually, they now offer 32 bit apps on a 64 bit kernel) while Linode offers 32-bit images.

The two main reasons I picked Linode were:

  • More memory for the same price (360MB vs. 256MB)
  • 32-bit OS which provides more available memory on my server

Linode also provides more disk and bandwidth but I don’t even come close to what Slicehost offers so it wasn’t a factor in my decision.

Slicehost has been extremely reliable and their tech support has been quick and efficient when needed. I couldn’t expect more from any provider. My Linode suffered an unexpected reboot due to a RAID disk failure early on so I was a bit worried. But they’ve been rock solid since then. Slicehost also had some hardware issues in my two years with them and I had a brief outage for an unexpected reboot and later when they moved me to a replacement server.

One differentiator with Slicehost is the ability to do automated backups which make restores simple and fast. But the backup service is an added cost ($5/mth for the small slices. Linode did offer a beta backup service that I was trying out. It was extremely unreliable and they’ve currently suspended the beta pending some architectural changes. If an image type backup was important to me I’d probably have looked a Zerigo (see below) in greater depth since they seemed to offer the most flexibility. (I currently backup my websites, databases and configuration files to my local PC every night and I’m happy with this.)

Linode’s management console has a few more features than Slicehost’s console and I like working with it a little better, but it’s nothing that I’d be willing to pay more for. While Linode doesn’t offer a backup service one feature I like is the ability to copy a disk image. I have 16GB of disk and I can partition this up any way I want. I have three 5GB partitions of which 1 is my actual server partition. The other two are rotating copies. While not truly a backup, before I make a change I dump the oldest copy and make a new copy the production image. I screw up the server I can boot off the copy (or just copy it back). This isn’t truly a backup since it’s all on my server but it’s a nice way to recover from a bad upgrade. It proved useful while testing out Linode.

By switching to the 32-bit version of Ubuntu server I picked up about 30 MB of free memory over my 64-bit Slicehost server. Added to the additional physical memory this gave me much more breathing room on my server. Occasionally my Slicehost server would resort to swapping which my Linode has yet to do despite having more available Apache processes and concurrent connections configured.

I also briefly looked at Zerigo. They’re pricing is competitive with Slicehost (Linode is cheaper) and Zerigo offers 32-bit OS’s . They offer a 4 day test drive and I took them for a spin over a weekend.  Zerigo also offers server snapshots for backups. The snapshots are more flexible than Slicehost’s backup offering. (At least as their described, I didn’t test this feature). There wasn’t anything compelling to make me pick them. I did have problems getting their DNS to resolve to my server, although it worked fine with a 3rd party DNS service. I didn’t open a support ticket since I didn’t plan to stay beyond the trial period.

All-in-all I’m very happy with Linode despite an early hiccup. They have a good reputation which they seem to be living up to. Even with the reboot a support ticket was generated and emailed to me explaining the reason and actions taken.

We’ve Moved

If you’re seeing this then the DNS change has propagated and you’ve found our new home. I’d been planning to move to a new host in the near future due to intermittent problems with Bluehost. Then a couple days ago I suffered a 7+ hour outage due to server problems. I had already done a full backup of everything which I had intended to use for testing. But rather than testing with it I used it to do the move.

Things are likely to be rough around the edges so let me know if you find a problem. You can either post a comment or fire off an e-mail to .

Site Outage

The OS Quest went down yesterday and stayed down for over 12 hours. It appears I had some database corruption that began with a hosting problem. Seems like everything is almost back to normal now although there may be some problems lurking in the shadows. One problem is that the menu bar to the pages is missing, still working on that although any page links in the articles will still work.

Seems like there was some corruption in the WP database that began around when Bluehost reported a problem with my shared server. I ended up running a database repair that allowed me back into WordPress. I also had to add the WordPress modifications back to my .htaccess files. The .htaccess file settings were probably blown away when WordPress went into install mode after to corruption.

Bluehost: Upgrading to PHP 5

PHP Logo in Black & White Since development of PHP 4 ended in 2007 it’s time to finally move on to PHP 5. This website is hosted by Bluehost and they provide the PHP installation, so there’s nothing for me to actually install. Bluehost provided the ability to determine which version of PHP I want to use on my site through a Cpanel setting. All sites running under the same Cpanel account have to use the same PHP version.

To pick the PHP version on Bluehost click the PHP Config icon in the Software/Services section of Cpanel. The following options will be displayed:

Bluehost PHP Config screen

Bluehost directs you to the PHP Migration Guide at php.net in the event you need to verify your code. In my case all my PHP was in WordPress or WordPress plugins. I had the latest WordPress version so I knew I was safe there. All my plugins are still actively developed and I had recent versions. So I should be all set with PHP 5, which is a good thing, since I really didn’t have anyway to test this unless I installed a whole new server. So I decided to make the change when things are slow and do some quick testing.

So I went from PHP4 to PHP5 (FastCGI) about a week ago and everything seems to be running just fine.

The OS Quest is now Redoable

Over the past weekend I migrated this site to the Redoable theme by Dean Robinson.

Redoable theme sample screenshot

I wasn’t looking for a theme to redo this site, but I was browsing through some WordPress related blogs and came across the Redoable theme and it just caught my eye. The design was nice and clean and I liked it visually. But as I looked into it I realized it was more than just eye candy. It’s as well thought out technically as it is visually and it included a several features I was looking for,

Redoable is based upon the K2 theme so it has the features of K2 at its core, including asides, live archives, live search and sidebar modules. Of course, K2 baggage tags along – such as live search not working with the type of permalinks I use.

Redoable includes built-in support for 20 plugins (21 if you’re still pre-2.1 on WP). This includes Alex King’s Articles, Gregarious, Related Posts, Ultimate Tag Warrior, WP-PostViews, WP-PostRatings and more. I was looking at adding several of these to my blog so Redoable also became a time saver.

If you’re on WordPress 2.2 you’ll need to disable widgets if you want to use the sidebar modules. The K2 support forum has a plugin that can be used to disable widgets.

The icing on the cake is that Dean maintains a forum to support the theme and his plugins. The theme had a few bugs but between the support forum and some digging they were easily fixed. There’s also some tweaking I want to do but the big changes are in.

I liked the Semiologic theme but one of it’s strengths was also a weakness for me. Semiologic was structured in a way that changes were kept in external files that were then read by the main theme files. This way when the theme was updated all the changes I made would stay in place. With Redoable (and almost all other WordPress themes) when the theme gets updated I’ll have to redo all my changes (or figured out what changed in the theme an incorporate theme). This is a bit of a concern since K2 is the base and WordPress has a more agressive upgrade schedule. It’s an incentive to learn how to create/modify themes.

The other downside is that I really like the colors used. This will be a problem if I want to make my site more unique by modifying the visuals. There’s already the ability to change the look a little bit but the biggest change is white design which isn’t my first choice.