Website design, programming, technique, and work.

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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WordPress Updates and Google Ranking

This year has been a crazy one for me and this blog had been neglected. Back in January, I ran into breathing difficulties due to allergies and was hospitalized. I also set about relocating the studio back in June to a new location in Hough’s Neck, Massachusetts. Last but not least, I’ve been juggling numerous projects in between all of these life events, and simply haven’t had too much spare time nor desire to keep things updated.

Anyways, it all turned out for the best. I’m feeling a lot better and I now have a wonderful place to live and work. Plus, I have a great group of neighbors – I couldn’t be luckier when it came to making new friends.

All that aside, I finally got around to updating this blog to the lastest WordPress and decided that it was a good time to start writing some posts. I noticed that the ranking for my LunarStudio website did take a ranking hit in certain search categories over the course of this past year (“Architectural Rendering” for example took my website from the top 10 Google spot and nearly dropped of the page of SERPs.) Part of me speculated that it was due to Google’s new search engine algorithms which are constantly evolving. I also speculated that it was in part due to my blogs falling behind in both posts and updates. Since they are outdated, it would make sense for them to lower the ranking for the links headed back out to other sites.

Google is tricky in that the company doesn’t release too much information as to what increases a site’s search engine rankings when it comes to keywords. If they did publicly release all of their tools, people would be able to “game” the system more than they currently are. The whole goal of Google is to return relevant searches full of useful information and to avoid simply posting results to the highest bidder (that’s what Google Adwords is meant for.) So anything I post regarding this is ultimately speculative, but one that I feel makes complete sense.

So a few days ago, I updated my blogs and almost immediately noticed that I was getting feedback on articles that I wrote a while ago.  Also, a few of my other blogs brought in sales where it had been stagnant for most of this year. It appears that Google actually looks at the WordPress version that one is using. Where it’s pulling that information from, I don’t know. It might simply be that Google is seeing an updated Sitemap as that stores time-stamps  WordPress can also automatically ping Google upon updates if you’re using the Google XML Sitemaps plugin. If you’re using the latest WP, it probably signals that you are serious about security (Google doesn’t want to link to sites that are malicious), code readability, updates, and that you’re content is fresh.

In  summary, what I’m suggesting to readers and blog owners is that it’s probably in their best interest to keep their blogs updated if SEO (search engine optimization) and your reader-base is a concern to you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to pen new articles every time, but at least take a few moments to keep your systems updated. I’m definitely experiencing a traffic increase on all of my sites even prior to writing these past two articles. Hopefully this article serves as a helpful reminder.

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.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.
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MightyFunk Design News Update

One of my other websites, MightyFunk Design News was recently updated. I used the same basic template as I did for this site because I had liked it so much – clean and simple. Quite frankly, I just don’t have the time to custom design every one of my websites unless I’m getting paid to do so, so reusing this site template seemed like a perfect match.

Just to recap the purpose of MightyFunk, it’s a website that functions as a RSS feed with an interface which contains brief excerpts or snippets of design-related news. It’s not meant as a permanent replacement for the original author’s articles and websites, but merely a brief synopsis in case a topic or article looks interesting. I mainly designed it for my own information, inspiration, and curiosity, but thought others might find the sites I frequent useful.

The problem with my previous MightyFunk system and design is that it was eating up my server’s resources and was becoming increasingly slow over time. My host and I could never figure out what was causing these performance issues and I was getting hit with a nasty hosting bill because of it every month.  MightyFunk stood paused for a little over a year’s time, but now it’s up and running again and better than ever. Only time will tell if the site gets bloated again.

Currently, it stands at over 35,349 posts. That’s an awful lot of posts… If you have a moment, please check it out!

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.
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Love My Host – MediaTemple

I spent a 1/2 hour on the phone with my tech support and web host at MediaTemple tonight. It’s not the first time that I’ve had to call them up with some advanced questions (I like to tinker), and they completely understood what I was saying. I ran into an issue today where I had this site pointing to one CDN, then I also pointed it to their new partner CloudFlare. I wrote them earlier questioning potential conflicts, and they responded by saying that it was probably not a good idea to have any redundancy, so I removed MaxCDN and my CNAME record which pointed to it.

That’s when things started to go funny. This site visually broke as well as some of my other blogs. I wasn’t sure if it was an issue of caching, DNS propagation, mirroring, plugins, or the theme itself. I thought maybe it had mostly to do with the plugins as I was using CDN Linker Light on this blog, and W3TotalCache on some of my others. It turns out that none of those were the case, but I eventually found out on my own that WP Minify was causing missing CSS and JavaScript errors.

While MediaTemple didn’t resolve my problem directly, they were there to give me some good pointers. You never feel rushed when talking to their support, and quite often they go above and beyond to help you out. For example, they shouldn’t have to be dealing with people’s WordPress installations such as mine since it’s technically out of their scope, but quite often they’re willing to give it a shot. Their service has been worth every penny so far, and I hope that they never change.

Thanks guys.