General and miscellaneous information that doesn’t fit in the other categories.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.
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MediaTemple Hosting Review 2016

I’m just going to be blunt: do yourself a huge favor and avoid Mediatemple’s hosting services at all costs.

When I first switched over to MT around seven years ago, I had nothing but praise for their customer support, speeds, and pricing. I even had written a glowing review on this very blog stating how happy I was that I had made the transition. One of their employees even found the blog and thanked me for writing such kind words about them. Then GoDaddy bought them out because (according to one of the MT’s employees) they were doing things “right” and GoDaddy wanted to see how their internal operations went. Supposedly, GoDaddy wouldn’t interfere with Mediatemple.

Over the years, I noticed they continued to raise their prices and  attempted to sell unsuspecting customers on new offerings. For example, their Grid Service was notoriously slow – a simple Google search for “Mediatemple Grid Slow” will pull up plenty of links to keep you entertained for hours, if not days. Instead of fixing the core issues underlying their Grid Service in relations to PHP/MySQL, they would rather redirect you to some of their help articles which more or less “tells” you that the “PROBLEM IS YOU,” and “NOT Mediatemple.” And that’s the big problem with their response. They are not owning up to poor performance issues on the Grid Service especially regarding WordPress Hosting. I’ve had numerous blogs hosted by WP over the years (I even set up my own servers), and none have had the poor performance and speed issues that they have. After numerous complaints going back several years ago, MT magically came up with a “new” service that seemed too coincidentally timed called “MediaTemple’s Managed WordPress Hosting” that they want to charge you more money for, and you’ll no longer have unlimited domains that can be hosted there.

To be somewhat fair, webhosts everywhere have been spending a lot of time these past 10 years troubleshooting poor WordPress performance and issues. Most of the time it is user-related and nothing to do with the web hosts. However, when you’ve been other hosts, have been coding websites, and creating blogs for over 15 years – I think after a certain point they ought to stop denying the underlying issues and take a closer look as to why WP has so many speed issues on the Grid.

Their level of customer support in my opinion has also decreased – longer wait times, shorter replies, tech that’s less willing to go the extra mile to answer your questions, and a lack of general answers. Just the past two days, I’ve finally found the time to complain to their customer support that I’ve been receiving hundreds of spam every day. The spam coming through their servers have risen drastically. I maybe used to get a few dozen whereas now it’s not uncommon to receive 500 in a single day. Keep in mind, they have their own internal (and outdated I may add) spam filtering system that they seem so proud of  and refuse to give up for whatever reason. They told me to raise my “spam score” to a higher level such as “4” – the big issue is that I’ve done that in the past and it’s completely prevented numerous valid emails from getting through (false positives.) I’ve told them this was an unacceptable answer and that the fix seems to be pointing on their end. Again, numerous MT customers have complained about the increasing amount of spam they seem to be getting bombarded with. A search for “Mediatemple Grid Spam” will show you what I’m talking about.

Last but not least, the past winter I was stuck shoveling out record-breaking snow and a little too busy to be briefly monitoring my Grid CPUs (they charge overages if bandwidth/CPU cycles get too high.) Out of the blue, I get hit with this $1,000 bill from them. Keep in mind, my hosting was at one point around $20/month. So you can imagine my utter terror and shock when I received this bill. No real warning aside from them “informing” me that it was the customer’s responsibility to monitor the overages. The fact that they can create such an elaborate system, yet don’t bother writing a script that triggers and emails the users that their Grid Service is getting hammered/taxed within only a matter of a few hours is beyond me. In fact, I argued that it was an intentional oversight on their part. After all, they stand to make loads of money on people not paying attention. Long gone are the days of old when they actually used to look out for you. I would say that someone in upper management realizes that this is a subtle strategy to shake the piggy bank for all that it’s worth, but perhaps they went a little too far in this instance.

In the end, I complained to the Attorney General in California and explained the situation. Mediatemple actually went ahead and dropped the charges  stating that they were doing this as a “one time courtesy that they almost never do.” You can make what you want out of it – I personally think it’s shady gouging practices.

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Mediatemple has seen a mass exodus of employees after their acquisition. People that really knew how to run the show and were probably worth their weight in gold were let go or quit. Most likely new upper management stepped in and called the wrong shots. Others got greedy. I’ve seen it happen time and time again and it’s an unsustainable practice. Customer service, fair prices, and listening to what their customers wanted or needed is what made them great and why I had recommended them a long time ago. Now I can no longer say anything positive about their services.

When I have time, I’ll have to move my sites over to a new website hosting company. I don’t know who that is going to be right now, but I’ll definitely let everyone know when I get there. If anyone has any suggestions for a better yet still inexpensive host (I really don’t feel like paying for a dedicated server…), I’d be more than happy to hear about your experiences.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.
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Closing and Cancelling a Citizens Bank Business Account Warning

I have to warn those that are going to close a Citizens Bank Business account of a certain hidden malpractice that they employ. I’ve been a long-term customer with them and at first, absolutely loved their services and customer support.
Over time however, I noticed they had started to insert monthly fees and additional charges (.35 cents per debit transaction for example which added up to over $200 one year.) They didn’t even have a mobile depositing app for the longest time and when they finally did, it was quite buggy and had deposit limits set in place. Plus as a technology buff, it was a bit disappointing that they didn’t support Apple Pay. This was just a few items that started to irk me, but it was never enough to get me to switch.

I had recently moved and got married so we were in the process of consolidating and moving accounts. I decided to go with DCU (Digital Federal Credit Union) due to the positive reviews from the public as well as high praise from Consumer Reports. I was sick and tired of being increasingly nickle and dimed by Citizens. As you may know, it takes time to transfer all of your billing and accounts from bank to bank. During the transfer of finances, I was hit with a few shocking, automatic withdraws for which I take the blame for. I should have listened to my wife initially and had closed the account altogether a month ago and this shouldn’t have been a problem. But after finally “closing” the account with them today in person (since I had a balance, they wouldn’t allow me to do it over the phone), a manager informed me that “if there’s any automatic withdraws over the next seven days, we will automatically reopen your account.”

Let me repeat what she said:

“If there’s any automatic withdraws over the next seven days, we will automatically reopen your account.”

So let me get this straight: I totally close an account. Done. Finished. Finito. They have the “right” to reopen it???
I thought I was hearing things. Because typically, you’d think that if you closed an account, most banks would simply inform whatever automatic withdraws that happen that there is no account associated.
Then they would proceed to charge you $39 for each overdraft although you had closed out the account and they reopened it.

It just doesn’t seem fair – in fact, it seems a highly illegal practice.

I asked the manager if she could point me to where it said they could do this. I asked if it was a State or Federal law, and if not, where in my contracts does it specifically state this. I received no answer but she insisted that this is their practice.

After I returned to the office, I didn’t want to take any further chances so I spent time trying to reorganize some of my automatic debits instead of having to do my work. I also contacted DCU representative and upon hearing my story said, “what?!? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. We just close an account when someone cancels.” After that, I  called up Citizens Bank Business department simply because I thought this couldn’t be true. Another manager from Citizen’s reiterated what she said.

I asked again, “where in the documentation, State, Federal, or contractually does it say you can automatically reopen an account after I have closed it?”

The manager replied that it’s “just part of our system. I have no control over that. It takes up to 60 days to purge your account.”

I insisted that my account be stricken/purged right away – to remove all of my account information to which she said that they couldn’t as it was beyond their control.

I asked to speak with her supervisor and she told me that “the supervisor would take the same steps and say the same thing.” She then offered to reach out to the supervisor in order to not wait, and then stated that it would be another five days before they could get back to me. The last thing she mentioned before getting off the phone was that she was going to try to contact a different department to see what they could do. But let’s just say that I’m not holding my breath.

So now, I really have nothing positive to say about Citizens Bank. They kicked me (and others I’m certain) on the way out and they will literally steal from you.

My recommendation for those shopping around for business banking is to simply avoid them at all costs unless they admit and decide to fix their corrupt practices.

In today’s age, you’re probably better off with an online credit union instead…

***Update: Citizens Bank called today to inform me that they pushed through my request to have my account information fully purged. When I asked about additional charges that may come through, they said that it would not cause a reopening and overdraft. I also asked if their standard procedure was applicable towards Citizens Personal accounts and they said that their procedure of “reopening accounts” was across all of their products. They provided me with a reference number and apologized, stating that they would take notice of my complaint and pass it along for suggestions.

Overall, I’m thankful that Citizens did this for me but I can’t help but think of all the thousands of accounts they have done this to and how much money they make (I wouldn’t even use the word “skim” as it’s not a small amount) from customers that are closing their accounts with them. It’s not only overdrafts, but they also put additional charges on their overdrafts as well. Then they will also make additional money off of the interests. To think that they were somehow “able” to push the information purge through the very next day shows that they can circumvent their automated system and that their current methodology is completely intentional. It’s sleazy. Shame on their overpaid executives which are stealing from the people. The fact is, I shouldn’t have had to deal with this in the first place. If I can save someone else some time and headache or better yet lead to investigations for malpractice, then I’d consider this post well worth it.***

Wishing everyone a happy New Year from LunarStudio & LunarLog.

Happy New Year From LunarStudio!

Wishing everyone a happy New Year from the group of us over at LunarStudio!

Architectural Rendering Office of Lunarstudio
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LunarStudio Has a New Office!

I wanted to officially mention that LunarStudio has changed office locations. The architectural rendering company moved back in June of 2012 from Medford, Massachusetts where I had started out over 14 years ago into a new place located in the Quincy, Massachusetts area of Hough’s Neck. It’s a much larger and scenic space located along the waterfront. The office is much better equipped to handle computers as well as hosting client meetings. The view  is also a great source of artistic inspiration.

Architectural Rendering Office of Lunarstudio

Lunarstudio’s Office

View from the dock near LunarStudio

A view from the dock near the new office.

A view of the bay from LunarStudio

A view of the bay looking out towards Nut Island.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, please stop on by for a visit!

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.
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Browsers and Website Statistics

It was brought to my attention yesterday that my LunarStudio website was being cut-off at the top of one user’s browser. Of course, I’m always concerned whenever someone experiences issues and experience the feedback – it can mean a less pleasing end-user’s experience as well as a loss in business. However, there can also be a number of reason’s why something goes wrong or looks incorrect on an end-user’s end and not necessarily and fault of my own.

In this particular case, it was the simple fact that the user was viewing my website at less than 1024×768 resolution on his monitor. LunarStudio isn’t designed currently for viewing anything less than 1280×960. Some might call this a mistake or a bad judgment, but I can ensure you that it is intentional.

There used to be a point in time around 2000-2002 when I designed all of my websites to fit the 800×600 website standard which was the most frequently used resolution. It was general and safe practice for any web designer to do so. I also made sure that most of my images tried to conform to a 256-color palette. This was because most people were just becoming accustomed to using computers for home use, they were running on much slower connections, used older browsers, older operating systems, older (and much more expensive) monitors, their computing power was limited, and they were running slow graphics processors (if any at all.) Quite frankly, designing for those standards was very limiting as well as a royal pain in the ass.

Now that it’s 10 years later, computing technology has come a long ways – people are running on faster connections as well as faster computers. They generally have much larger and less expensive LCDs. Most of us have the latest browsers and operating systems.

With the current version of LunarStudio, I redesigned it with forward-thinking in mind versus a legacy mentality. I don’t have the time to think of the worst-case or even average viewing scenario and frankly really can’t be driven to care unless I’m getting paid to do so. The way I figure it is that if a person is having problems viewing my website, then there’s a chance that they are somewhat computer illiterate, and this might make a working situation tenuous at best – they’re simply trying to jump from an era of driving a horse and buggy to driving the latest Ferrari. I hope that this isn’t taken as being rude or condescending – I’m just merely stating that a user needs to get with the times or risk becoming a thing of the past.

That being said, here are some statistics which may be of interest:

Screen Resolution and Colors:

As of 2011, 85% of all users view websites at a resolution greater than 1024×768 and the rate keeps climbing.

As of 2011,  97% of all users have a color-depth of over 16 million colors.

Browsers:

Internet Explorer: 22.9% total. IE9: 4.8%. IE8: 12.4%. IE7: 3.9%. IE6: 1.8%.

Firefox: 39.7% total. FF7: 1.5%. FF6: 22.2%. FF5: 3.1%. FF4: 2.2%. FF3: 9%.

Chrome: 30.5% total. C15: 0.7%. C14: 11.2%. C13: 16%. C12: 1.1%.

Safari: 4.0% total. S5: 3.8%. S4: 0.2%.

Opera: 2.2% total. O11: 1.7%. O10: 0.1%.

Other browsers: 0.7% total.

Operating Systems:

Windows 7: 42.2%.

Windows Vista: 5.6%.

Windows 2003: 0.8%.

Windows XP: 36.2%.

Linux: 5.1%.

Mac: 8.6%.

Mobile: 0.9%.

Sources:

Display Display Statistics.

Browser Statistics.

Operating Systems.

My Website Captures:

I use a handy tool called browsercam (discontinued) when it comes to capturing how my website should look across browsers, resolutions, and operating systems.

Here are some links to how the LunarStudio website looks across various setups:

***Old site discontinued.***

 

This doesn’t include every variation. This just gives me a general idea as to how my website looks to that 15% of the population that I don’t really target.

Summary:

I think the most frightening thing about the statistics listed above is that 36% of the population is still running on Windows XP followed by a 5.6% on Vista which just blows my mind. The majority use browsers generally dated one version back – seeing that browsers are routinely updated, I shouldn’t have to worry so much about people using older browsers to view my content. Beyond that, the clear majority run high enough resolutions and color-depths to support the current LunarStudio website.

Designing for the lowest common denominator when it comes to websites is a risk any designer or company takes. Frankly, I think if you’re planning on designing a website and you want it to be modern, it may not be worth maximizing revenue based solely on a target market that is outdated. If website design was my full-time job, I might consider that 15%, but for now, it’s not something I’m going to concern myself with.