Monthly Archives: March 2007

Gypsy Jazz Bewitches, the Eye Wanders

My webhosting company and I have always been a committed pair, but now gypsy jazz has me all hot and bothered, and wondering what I’m missing.

Pair.com has been there for me for for almost a decade. They host all of our personal websites & e-mail. There have been a few rough patches, but overall, they’ve been very solid. I’ve considered looking elsewhere save some money, but as Anthony pointed out, it seems foolish to turn away from a good thing.

The thing about Pair is that they are very conservative. They are still running Apache 1.3.x, PHP4.1 & MySQL4.1. They don’t offer one touch installs of anything, and no dice on running anything that requires a long running process, like Django, or Ruby on Rails. This was fine with me for a long time, but now I’m getting itchy.

I want to set up a “planet” (a site that aggregates and republishes selected RSS feeds), and I haven’t been thrilled with the PHP options I’ve found. I played with using Drupal tonight, but I don’t like the behavior of either the built in aggregator, or the third-party module I tried. The built in aggregator doesn’t preserve authors or categories on imported RSS items. Leech, the third party module I tried, doesn’t preserve authors, and while it is supposed to preserve categories, I couldn’t figure out how to get it to work. I’ve also considered WordPress (which I use to publish this blog) + a 3rd party feed aggregator plug-in that to preserve both categories and authors, but I would have to hack to get it to display just an excerprt of full-text feeds .

That led me to Feedjack, which is built using Django. Feedjack already appears to do everything I want and if it doesn’t I already know enough about both Django and the Universal Feed Parser to customize things to my liking. Plus, having someplace I can deploy Django apps also eliminates a hurdle to finishing (and starting) another little project I’ve been toying with.

Right now I’m considering A Small Orange and Web Faction. A Small Orange (ASO) seems to have a decent reputation and they represent the cheapest cost of entry. They have a plan that can apparently run Django for as little as $25 a year. Web Faction starts at $9.50 a month (with discounts for paying for one or two years at a time), but they offer 2x the storage and almost 10x the bandwidth of the $10 plan at ASO. Plus they offer Postgres in addition to MySQL, and will let you run memcached in addition to Django on their base plan.

All this has me wondering about my commitment to Pair. I could run my wordpress blogs just fine on ASO or Webfaction. I could even migrate my e-mail over. We’ll see, but what I might do is leave my e-mail on Pair, because reliable e-mail is really important to me, and downgrade to their cheapest plan.

Hitwise’s online store both sucks and blows

Hitwise, which offers rather detailed and expensive competitive intelligence on website traffic, has the worst online store I’ve encountered in recent memory. Purchasing an off-the-shelf report is a multi-step process, and each step takes over a minute (for no obvious reason).

First you enter the url of a website you want information on, then you wait a minute or more, then you decide what geographic market you want stats for, then you wait another minute or more. I’m not sure what is next, because I’ve never made it that far. I end up doing something else, and by the time I come back to the Hitwise store and try to complete the next step, it has timed out my session and I have to start all over again.

Appearantly it’s been this way for at least a couple of days. What bullshit.

Update: 12 hours later, and it’s still a delightful experience. Appearantly the server is half way around the world from me, in Australia, but this goes way beyond communications latency. Regular page views on their store are slow, but not managed-hosting-on-venus slow.

Update 2: A month later, and I decided to check back because I saw that someone from hitwise seems to have checked this post. It still sucks. It’s taking forever. I have no idea why.

ZeFrank, Ernie Kovacs

My in-law’s attorney, who used to dress up as a witch to introduce the TV midnight movie in Midland TX, wrote her senior thesis on Ernie Kovacs, a comedian who pioneered in the new medium of television in the early 1950s.

I’m too damn intellectually lazy to do a similar treatment comparing Kovacs to ZeFrank, the polymath who pioneered in the new medium of video blogs in the mid-aughts, but I’m appearantly first person in all of googlespace to think of drawing the parallel, so now intellectual integrity demands that anyone else who thinks of writing an academic paper must cite me.

I note that appearantly Ze has some Ernie Kovacs DVDs in his amazon wish list.

I wish Joost…

It’s been a couple of weeks since I first installed and sampled Joost.  I haven’t had much time to play with it since then, but I had some free time this morning, so I decided to give it a better look and I thought I’d write up my impressions.  I’ll use a bulleted list to gloss over the fact that I’m not giving this much thought.

  •  I Like Rocky and Bullwinkle — I don’t think I’ve watched them since I was 14, but Joost has one episode, and I want more.
  • I wish it were easier to add channels — I originally though there were only a couple of dozen channels, but then I tried clicking on a little non-button I discovered in the corner of the channel list and discovered at least a dozen more.  Now that I know, it’s easy to find, but I know other people have completely missed the additional channels
    joost-channels.jpg
  • I wish it were easier to remove channels – Some of the channels I added are real duds.  I can right click on them in my channel list and choose”remove” from a popup menu, but nothing happens (an obvious bug).  To remove them, I have to go into the list of all channels, view the channel and click a remove button.  Simple enough, except a lot of the channels have similar names and logos, so figuring out which is which is a pain in the ass.
  • I wish it were easier to find out about channels before adding them — At best you have the name of the channel and a short description to go by.  Unfortunately, the short descriptions are unpopulated.  This is inexcusable someone on Joost’s team is clearly involved in vetting channels for inclusion.  They should write a short description even if the video content provider doesn’t come through.  There are other glithces with the channel descriptions too.  Often, Joost shows the description for the last channel you looked it.  It can take 5-10 seconds for the description of the next channel to show up.  There are other annoyances too.  There is no way to scan through the new channels, you have to look at the description of one and then go back to the list, and unfortunatley, you end up loosing your place in the list.  When looking for new channels, you really should be able to jump from channel to channel, and when doing so, you should be able to see a little bit about the programming in the channel, perhaps even viewing the clips.
  • I wish the ads were inserted more carefully –Joost seems to insert an ad at a regular interval, but the break rarely coincides with a natural break in the narrative of the programming.
  • I wish it had more stuff I wanted to watch

Ok, enough bullets, I’m going to get some coffee.