The disadvantages of Exigent VPS accounts

I signed up for a $10 VPS account and put Exigent through a few runs and I must say I’m not very impressed.

First of all there are a couple hidden charges with Exigent. If an invoice goes overdue, they’ll suspend your VPS just the same as any provider, but charge you a $35 late fee.

Last night there was also a scheduled outage as Exigent planned a reboot of their VPS servers. That all went to plan ok. But it would have been nice if Exigent restarted VPS containers, instead waiting for me to action a boot of my VPS.

And finally there is the memory weirdness. Fair enough, at Jumba my VPS with 512MB of memory did not offer enough to run LAMP (Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP) and a full fledged e-mail server with amavisd-new and spamd for filtering. The moment I setup amavisd-new I found the Jumba VPS would frequently have killed processes and crashed services etc. So I got the Exigent account simply for running an e-mail server. And guess what, with 1GB or double the memory, I still can’t run a full fledged e-mail server. Comparing the memory consumption between the Jumba and Exigent accounts demonstrates that the Exigent account requires more memory to run the same services with the same software versions. I’m yet to find an explanation as to why.

Over the Christmas period I’ll have to either figure out the memory issues I have with Exigent, or discontinue them.

Indian web developers?

I’ve looked at this in the past and I’ve just tonight relooked at the potential solution again. I need to hire a web developer to assist myself with some of my web projects.

I’m not convinced that domestic developers offer a higher level of skill and expertise. John Larsen was featured in Slashdot today with his blog “Why I will never feel threatened by programmers in India”. I have interviewed potential domestic programmer employees in the past, and well, I can say the experience was virtually identical to when I posted some job ads in India (bar the Indian vs Australian names). The experience seemed to reaffirm to me that 90% of the IT Industry does not know IT, which is a huge problem when I’m paying some ones wage by the hour. Ultimately I will need to train any employee into the worker I want them to be, and this process will take years. After their training period is over I need to be careful the employee is retained as the trend with the IT industry is to gain experience then relocate.

I am concerned by the Australian governments choices with worker protection, with my position the reverse of most Australians, as an employer I want as much control to fire and pay as little as possible to any employee. Of course other considerations like employee satisfaction come into play, but ultimately with all expenses included, outsourcing to India is only a fraction of the cost.

oDesk, Guru.com and Talents From India all appear to be good sources of career seeking with Indian employees. Average wages seem to range from $6 to $15 USD per hour. Hiring an Australian on the alternative would have a minimum wage of nearly $20 AUD per hour and the employee would receive all sorts of extra rights like paid breaks, sick leave, etc. – which Indian workers do not ask for. Ultimately you could employ 5 Indians for the cost of one Australian.

Its absurd and racist to believe Indians, or anyone else from a foreign nation, has a lower level of skills as John Larsen has suggested. India does have its own local economies, and its own booming IT sector which seeks the attention of big businesses like Dell, HP & Telstra. While India remains a 3rd world country, there surely are Indians who believe in “doing a job right” which can be encouraged with job guarantees, salary bonuses, and interest and concern about the employees comfort of living.

I’ve had a long reputation with an Indian domain registrar and have found them to be absolutely wonderful. At one point when I was purchasing large volumes of domains I signed quite a few ex-GoDaddy customers who found my resold service from the Indian registrar was of a superior quality.

I also have frequent dealings with Exetel who have outsourced their technical support and agent teams to Sri Lanka. While sometimes I find a “useless employee”, this doesn’t seem all that different from when Exetel operated these teams from North Sydney.

So some time over the next month or two I will definitely hire a developer from India to work with me. My immediate concerns are giving the employee “small time work” and convincing them they want to please me with their work for the rewards they will receive from it, before later working on to some bigger more important works (which are crucial to remain totally confidential). I’ve recently signed a programming job which is no trouble for myself to complete, however if I hand it off to an Indian employee, it will likely cost me about 10% of what the customer has agreed to pay.

I’ve felt this for a long time that the Australian Government really needs to make changes to taxation in order to make Australia economically appealing again. Instead our Government only seems interested in adding further taxes that will set our industries backwards for no real advantage other than to make up for the current Governments shortcomings at the voters expense.

Browser detection with PHP’s get_browser()

I had to make a small web page to play the Internet stream for the radio station this week.

We’ve had alot of issues in the past with users of Internet Explorer having poor quality playback. This is because the web browser handles all HTTP requests for Adobe Flash and IE doesn’t handle live MP3 streams too well.

So the idea is to detect when Internet Explorer is being used and instead of using Adobe Flash, embed Windows Media Player which plays the stream fine.

get_browser() does this task great. However it requires the php_browscap.ini file.

So this file is kept up to date I created the cronjob:

1 1 */7 * *     root    /usr/bin/wget "http://browsers.garykeith.com/stream.asp?PHP_BrowsCapINI" -O /etc/php5/browscap.ini >/dev/null 2>&1

I then edited the php.ini file so that under [browscap] it contains:

browscap = /etc/php5/browscap.ini

SEO for Starters

The last few weeks I’ve been working on my business site in an effort to improve my advertising exposure. One topic I keep coming back to is SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

I’ve did a link building exercise early in the week where I added myself to a number of “business directories” who provide a basic profile and link to my website – which thus increases ranking as there are more pages linking to my website.

One of these directories was Hotfrog. About 20 seconds after I submitted my listing, they called me, offering an SEO package for $350. The sales person stated he’d get my business page to the top 3 results in Google for 40-50 different keywords.

I’ve also gotten some comments on this blog which Akismet has caught from commercial WordPress plugin developers who want to sell me their plugin which will supposedly improve my SEO. I fail to see how a plugin will help me with HTML templating.

I remain unconvinced that I need to spend this type of money on SEO and can in fact improve my SEO rankings on my own. But this is probably because of my highly fluent computer skills and wouldn’t apply to everyone.

So at some point in the future, after my new business website is fully developed, I plan on using several coupons with advertising agencies like Google Adsense, and will advertise my business website which will improve not only organic search but introduce a new source of visitors – those who clicked on ads.

I’ve also previously utilized buygoogleplus1.net to buy bot generated +1’s on my business website and probably will again.

With my new website I’m making a few other refinements that will improve ranking. I’m making strong use of <meta> and pedantic use of <title> (I blogged previously about Open Graph Protocol). I’ve also made crawling refinements with robots.txt. And I’m migrating my PHP based templating engine so its no longer file driven and will infact be database driven (MySQL) so it will be easier to generate a sitemap.xml.

And finally I also got myself a listing in Yellow Pages for $20 per month who link to my website from the Yellow Pages and White Pages websites. The added bonus is that I’m also in the print directories so people new to the area are more likely to discover me via Yellow Pages.

One document I found interesting which I discovered this morning. Google published “SEO Starter Guide” which I will have to read, cover to cover, over the weekend. Aussie Web Conversion aided me in finding this.

Nokia Smart Messaging v3–SCKL format

I had an idea some time ago about business cards. I worked out a business card costs me 9c however customers often lose them and will regularly ask for more business cards.

If I were to send a business card to their mobile phone however… it’d cost me 21c and the customer should never need to request it again and is unlikely to lose that information (unless of course they get a new handset).

So I coded up a function sckl($message,$port) in PHP. Essentially it encodes data into the SCKL (Smart Messaging v3) format outlined by Nokia. I can then define RFC compliant vCard data as $message and send it on port 23F4. The function will divide the data in up to 3 messages if necessary.

Its worth noting (as when I researched the format there was little information about this) that messages exceeding 160 characters need to be split into multiple messages, and each message should start with the //SCKL header.

This page proved extremely helpful.

Now I have the encoding sorted all I have to do is code up my contact page to have a form for sending that out, and some appropriate anti-abuse measures.

An example of a multipart SCKL vCard…

//SCKL23F423F4900201 BEGIN:VCARD
VERSION:2.1
N:Doe;John
TEL;HOME;VOICE:0123456789
TEL;CELL;VOICE:0123456789
EMAIL;PREF;INTERNET:user@email.com
ADR;POSTAL;

//SCKL23F423F4900202 PREF:;;2 First St;Suburb;State;Postcode;Country
URL:http://www.johndoe.com
END:VCARD