Linode “Nextgen” upgrades

Linode has invested over a million dollars into upgrading their network, servers and bandwidth to levels that are unparalleled when it comes to all the features they have already made available to subscribers.

There are three parts to the “Nextgen” upgrade so far.


The Network

“We’re spending $1 million making our network faster. Way faster. Cisco Nexus 7000 routers. Cisco Nexus 5000 switches with Nexus 2000 Fabric Extenders. Linode outbound network cap increased 5x. Outbound monthly transfer quota increased 10x.”

The Hardware

“We’re investing millions to make your Linodes faster. Crazy faster. We’ve begun a refresh of 3/4 of our entire fleet to a new ‘NextGen’ host hardware specification. And we’re upgrading all Linodes to 8 cores! Right now. As in all you need to do is reboot to double the computing power of your Linode.”

RAM Upgrade

“We’re doubling the RAM on all of our plans. This upgrade is available to existing and new customers. New Linodes will automatically be created with the new resources. Existing Linodes will need to go through the Upgrade Queue to receive the upgrades.”


These upgrades represent a MAJOR upgrade. I went from 1.2 TB of outbound to 12 TB. That is quite substantial. The 8 core hardware upgrade is a little harder for most to quantify, but it’s better than the 1-2 “visible” cores I get on DigitalOcean or other “minor” providers. The RAM went from 512 (for me) to 1024. That is very substantial as well when you determine how many sites you can run on a single 512 machine and how many more you can run with double the RAM.

I actually, to Linode’s loss, removed one of my VPS servers and moved sites over to one of the newly upgraded ones. I’m sure, once I outgrow my latest linode, I’ll expand to a new one once more, but for the time being, I love having the additional resources. For my “first” linodes and client ones, it’s great to have the additional resources, especially the “pooled” bandwidth.

Anyone who is looking for a VPS server would be stupid not to get one on Linode with all they have to offer. I manage 9 linodes split between 3 different accounts and the piece of mind that my sites are “safe” is reassuring. I have linode backups on half of them. 30 day S3 and personal rsync backups on the others and do not have to worry about my clients.

Here is my referral link.

Why I like Linode (after using others)

When I started hosting websites for clients, I hosted them in-house, literally, in my house. This was nice because I had direct control over the servers and could quickly fix them or migrate data if there were hardware failures. But obviously, it does not scale very well when it comes to bandwidth, and if you need many servers, the power and cooling requirements can get out of hand.

GoDaddy

At the point when I felt my home setup was “obsolete”, I then took the plunge onto GoDaddy dedicated servers, 2 of them at the time. One was for websites and ran Windows 2003 Server with IIS. The other was a mail server and each had DNS running on them so I didn’t have to depend on/pay for a third-party DNS provider.

GoDaddy dedicated servers ended up being the biggest mistake I ever made.  They ran well for a while, but then a worm of some kind crawled around their internal network and came in through some backend they use to manage the servers.  I had everything well locked down, all Windows sharing turned off, including unneeded admin shares (C$, etc.) and had the firewall pretty tight. It took around 3 days to recover fully from the crash and even though the machines were virtually “destroyed”, I was fortunately able to FTP out all my customer data.

Crystaltech

I moved most of my ASP & .NET sites over to a Windows 2008 Server at CrystalTech. Including email (SmarterMail), which I love, but with the limited space on a Windows VPS, it is quickly filling up with email (people rarely delete things when using IMAP). I still use Crystaltech and they’ve been very stable, but their cost is quite a bit higher than other virtual solutions.

Slicehost

After the GoDaddy crash, all my PHP sites moved to virtual servers running Ubuntu with a standard LAMP stack. Apache got old real quick. It required constant tuning.  I explored many web servers to find one with better performance, at one time, I had three setup for ALL my virtualhosts where all I had to do was stop all the web daemons, change the config of the one I wanted to use to 80 and just start that one, bring up all my sites on a different daemon.  I finally settled on Cherokee and have NEVER looked back.

Slicehost, in my opinion, had HUGE potential at one time (pre-Rackspace buyout).  The support was phenomenal, everyone in the company was open and reachable. I many times talked to the founder via chat and email.  But all of that went down the drain with Rackspace and all Slicehost’s offerings and prices went stagnant.

I recently cancelled Slicehost completely after getting a hard to access domain, whose DNS was hosted with Slicehost, to change their nameservers to Linode’s.

Others

I’ve used a number of other minor providers from time to time that I won’t get too much into here. None of them seemed to be as “turnkey” as places like Linode and Slicehost when it came to the admin backend experience. They were either too complicated or did not even have some of the basics required for “full service” hosting.

Linode

Linode, so far (knock on wood), has been the best company I’ve ever done business with. Rock solid, great support at all hours, fast host servers, lots of datacenter locations, excellent control panel, iPhone app, etc. I can’t say enough to express my happiness with the service.

I currently host a number of VPS servers with them and have brought over a few clients onto their own server(s).  We host everything from test servers to full production and even PBXs. All runs perfectly.

It will be a sad day in VPS hosting land if Linode ever gets bought out by some mega hosting company like Rackspace.

To end this up, decentralization has been the best thing I have done and it is multi-faceted. I separated websites onto multiple, less expensive virtual servers, which prevent ALL my sites from going down when something happens to one of them. I’ve moved most of my clients to Google Apps for Domains, both business and standard, for email.

My uptime has dramatically improved, my customers are happier and that’s what matters.

What I think Apple Should Do…

Dear Steve Jobs,

I feel that with the “death” of the XServe Server and the uncertain future of Mac OS X Server OS, Apple should delve into offering hosted services to pull in entities who are now scattered among numerous other services such as Google Apps for Domains, commercial hosting, and numerous other third party hosted or self hosted apps, which require a lot of maintenance, multiple accounts, billing, etc.  Many of my IT associates who have switched to Apple laptops and desktops have commented to me that they hate still having to use non-apple apps to complete their daily business.

For example, the MobileMe interface already is an attractive and functional interface for email, contacts, calendar, iDisk, Photos and location services.  How much harder would it be to allow a company to signup and fully attach their own domain to the MobileMe framework.  Perhaps even create a separate enhanced version of MobileMe in their [Apple's] newest “cloud” datacenter in North Carolina and, over time, have an ‘a la carte’ offering of additional new services that users need/request.  Maybe even allow developers to write custom Apps that can be cleanly integrated into the web interface and a matching app for the iOS device(s).

Keep the price reasonable, no more than $1-2/mo per user, which would be very attractive for small businesses, special pricing for larger corporations and perhaps discounts when Apple devices are purchased and attached to an account.  Perhaps 1 year for free when any iOS device is purchased to draw users in.

The advantages of this would be numerous, it would give small businesses and organizations a unified and complete “Apple Branded Experience” on their Mac PCs, iPhones, iPads, etc.  Almost everyone I know has a Apple device of some kind and many would prefer to use their own domain.  Apple does offer the capability of attaching a domain to your MobileMe webspace, but that does not extend to customization of the other services.

Also, with minor modifications to the existing MobileMe framework, it would bring a whole new potential residual revenue stream that millions of users could utilize.  It may also spur additional companies and users to buy Apple hardware knowing that all these services are so well intergrated. Adding similar features as Google Apps for Domains and improving upon them would make it a very attractive alternative.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do use and am VERY happy with Google Apps for Domains, but it would be nice to have some competition from another major player to keep things interesting.  Google does accomplish a lot of what I’ve stated in this email, but it’s not as “pretty”, well integrated and cost effective for those with many needs.

Perhaps Apple could even purchase a VoIP company and add that to their portfolio of services.  With an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and an old Mac Mini, it would be nice to get deep integration of all my communications needs while not being forced onto the @me.com domain.

I guess only time will tell how far Apple is willing to ascend into the cloud.

Need to Accept Credit Cards? Try Square!

Square Card Reader in iPhone 4

Square Card Reader in iPhone 4

Guess I’m a little late jumping on the bandwagon, but this past week I discovered Square. Square is a, in my opinion, revolutionary way to accept credit cards, whether it be within a company’s location or anyone who is constantly on the go.

It is very easy to signup and really the only thing to do is verify your bank account, so Square can direct deposit the funds you charge and the waiting time for the reader itself. I only signed up this past week, so I’m still waiting on my reader. Once it comes in, it looks as if it’s compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, iPod and some Android devices. Just plug it into the headphone jack, open the app and swipe away.

When you swipe a card with the Square reader, the fee is only 2.75% which is quite excellent. Manually entering the card is 3.5% + 15¢, which is bit higher, but still not bad for the convenience it provides. I went ahead and manually entered a test charge from one of my cards and it went right into my account, minus the transaction fee. So even with the higher charge, $20 came out to $19.15.

A photographer friend of mine uses Square and it increased his revenue quickly. An IT associate uses “Square Up” with his clients onsite and does not have to worry about monthly invoicing paperwork and running to the bank to deposit paper checks. You don’t even have to be a “business” to utilize this, even individuals can use it. Square can be very helpful for anything from flea market selling to adding a convenient payment option for garage sales. Heck, you could even sit outside at your kid’s lemonade stand and use it for the “larger” transactions.

I plan on primarily using this “app” when I do work onsite for clients or over the phone if credit cards are the best option for them. I may add a slight surcharge if it’s done manually. But I think with the convenience it provides, it’ll definitely help increase my revenue stream.

Amazon S3 Static Website Hosting

Sometimes you don’t need a full blown web hosting environment with MySQL, PHP and other dynamic components.  Sometimes you just need to host a static website.

We can host static websites on one of our normal servers and support quite a large number of hits, but sometimes you may need VERY high availability service.

Examples of this include:

  • Informational sites with links to many downloadable files requiring high bandwidth
  • A “micro site” that is being sent out to a large number of people simultaneously requiring a large number of concurrent connections.
  • Static file hosting, such as images.  For example, if you have a blog with a lot of images, you can host the main site on a normal PHP server and the images on a high power system.

This is where Amazon S3 Static website hosting comes in handy.

You simply create a “bucket” in S3, create the website endpoint, choose the “index” file such as “index.html”, upload your static website and add a CNAME pointing to the URL that is given to you in the S3 control panel.

Although it’s not too hard to set up this service, we can provide assistance in establishing the initial site and helping you setup a client to upload files into the web space.

One advantage we can offer is the ability to host your static website on Amazon and still have some dynamic capabilities such as email forms, entering form data into a MySQL database, etc.

Contact us for more information and a quote on setting it up.

New Verizon Android Phone: Samsung Fascinate

Over the years, I have always swung back and forth between Microsoft, Apple, Linux, etc.   I get into Open Source moods, then realize there’s something I need on one the more ‘closed’ platforms of Microsoft or Apple and lean back towards those.  Because of that, I currently have machines running all three major OSes.  A PC Desktop running Windows 7, a Mac Mini (Intel) running the latest Mac OS X and my old Desktop running Linux (Ubuntu 10.04).

I’m sort of the same way with other devices, for phones and PDAs, I’ve used Palm (legacy and WebOS), Windows Mobile, Apple iOS (v. Original-4.x), Symbian, etc. But I had never taken the plunge into the newer Android OS.  Perhaps I figured it wasn’t as stable or mature as iOS and some of the others that have been around for a while.

This past week, my wife lost her phone, so she met me at the Verizon store on her way home.  I was there about 20 minutes earlier, so I was admiring the new Droid X, HTCs and the Samsung Fascinate.  When she arrived, I suggested that we try the Fascinate since there was a “buy one get one free” special, we’d get rid of the MiFi 2200 since they have the WiFi Hotspot feature for only $20/mo more, and we’d come out a bit ahead.  We were both Upgrade Eligible, so I did everything I could to sell her on it.

Now my wife is NOT really a techy person and since she already used her iPod touch as a PDA, I didn’t think she’d go for it, but she did.  I was amazed.   Now I’m the happy owner of a new Android phone.

My first impressions are good, it’s fast, has plenty of features and customization, a decent selection of apps, great hardware while still maintaining really good battery life and form factor.

Virtually everything I needed and had on my iPhone 3G plus more are now installed on my Fascinate and I only paid for one app (WebSharing).  The camera (5mp) is excellent, the video (up to 720 HD) is also very crisp with GREAT audio quality for a phone.  The screen is very bright and does a good job auto-adjusting based on the ambient light level.

The only minor con is that there is only a Bing search widget available.  There is no factory option to change it to Google Search.  This is just wrong in so many ways.  Other than that.  The Samsung skinning of the Android interface is a bit annoying, but since I’m a first time user, it’s not too bad, but I did like the interface better on the non-Touchwiz Droid phones.

My favorite feature so far is the Swype text input.  You just draw the word on the popup screen keyboard and it intelligently pulls out the words, even if they’re names or website addresses and so on.  It is very accurate and intuitive.  The Swype website has a bunch of nice tutorials for more advanced input options.

Now that I’ve had it for a few days, I am sort of disappointed I waited so long.  Perhaps it was a good thing to let some of the early bugs get worked out.

iPhone 4.0 Announced (Officially)

Looks like the new iPhone has officially been announced.

As usual, it looks like and the new features are excellent, features we wanted are still missing and logical things that Apple could do like make MobileMe free (to spur wider use) still haven’t happened, although it is rumored.

Even though I did go ahead and get an iPad.  I WILL not get the iPhone 4 until they offer more carrier options.  There’s no way in hell I will go back to AT&T, so hopefully the fall release of a CDMA version for Verizon and/or Sprint, along with other smaller local carriers, will happen.  That is the only way myself and tens of millions of others will get the new iPhone.

Two other things that would be nice:

  1. Upgrade the iPod touch to the same form factor and feature set minus the cellular radio, or even include 3G data like the iPad for those who don’t want to switch or already have a good cellular plan.
  2. Make the whole experience more “open”… I’ll leave it at that.  Being tied to iTunes just to get the Apple Experience sucks.  I use a Mac, but not primarily, I use Linux a lot, Windows is almost out of my home-office IT Ecosystem.  Put it all on the device with ties to “the cloud”.

Otherwise, I hope Apple keeps up the innovative edge in design and function.  I look at a lot of devices and there is nothing that appeals to me more than their design, even though sometimes it doesn’t seem as feature laden as some other devices.

Simplicity+Function = Winner

Rackspace Cloud Servers now Openly Beta Testing Windows Server 2003/8

As I’ve stated in the past, I’ve used a lot of different hosting providers and still have services remaining at most of them in some capacity.  With Rackspace Cloud (formerly Mosso), I still have Cloud Files CDN service on standby in case I need it.   On 2-2-2010, I got an email notifying me that they have started offering Windows VPS for beta testing.  This is very exciting for me as it was one of the main features I wanted in Slicehost (which I still have 1 256mb Slice).

I setup a 512mb Windows 2003 Server to test. So far it seems to be quite excellent and fast. On speedtest.net, I got 67mb down, 27mb up. Not bad. It looks like the Windows 2003 Servers are running under XEN and the 2008 are most likely under Microsoft’s Hyper-V.  The new machine I setup did have SP2 on it, but was unpatched otherwise.  First thing I did was update everything.  The Windows Firewall is completely closed off by default at least.

I’m definitely going to keep testing it on Rackspace, but it would be nice to have one control panel and have them available via Slicehost.com as well. Even it if is an extension to the Slicehost control panel accessing Rackspace Cloud’s API. Better integration of the Slicehost offerings with the Rackspace Cloud services would help both entities since they should be one big happy family now. ;-)

I almost wish they would merge completely and integrate all the features from both sides of the house.  I’m sure that’ll happen in time as the old loyal power users move off to Linode (I moved 4 VPS to Linode) and it’ll have the least impact, churn-wise, if done smoothly.

My setup, if anyone is interested, is the following:

  • 1x256mb Slicehost VPS running Cherokee/MySQL hosting ~25 sites.
  • 3x360mb Linodes + 1x540mb Linode.  3 Servers are dedicated to individual customers, the other is for more sites I maintain.  Mostly running Cherokee/MySQL or Apache/MySQL.
  • 1x1024mb CrystalTech VPS  running Windows 2008 for hosting email and websites for a number of customers
  • 1x2048mb SingleHop Server running Windows 2003 for a few sites that wouldn’t work correctly under 2008 for a number of reasons.  This is an Intel ATOM based Server w/ 320gb HDD.  Not bad for $99.
  • 2xMedia Temple Grid accounts for customer sites that need higher scalability.

If the Rackspace Windows VPS works out well, I’ll probably move the stuff off SingleHop since the Rackspace pricing is much better for me and SingleHop’s server is overkill memory and HDD wise for a few relatively basic websites and apps.

But I will say SingleHop’s services have been EXCELLENT in the year or so I’ve been using them.  No complaints at all, 0% downtime that I, or my monitoring software, have observed.  Good customer service and GREAT prices for dedicated servers.  I just don’t need dedicated servers at the moment.  If I did, SingleHop would be the place I’d go for both Linux and Windows dedicated.

CrystalTech has also been extremely reliable and fast, but the pricing is way too high, in my opinion.  $149 (including backups) for a 1024mb VPS w/ 60gb HDD when I can get a dedicated for not much more at SingleHop.

I’ll post more on Rackspace Cloud as I start using it more.

A few reasons why I will not be getting a 1st generation Apple iPad

I have never been as disappointed in Apple as I am with the new iPad.

Here’s why:

AT&T as the only carrier
AT&T SUCKS!  Need I say more?  Those Verizon commercials about AT&T are all 100% correct.  AT&T’s 3G coverage is sad, Verizon’s is amazing.  Until AT&T is gone, the only version I’ll ever get is the WiFi only and use my MiFi 2200 on Verizon for data on the move.

No front-facing camera
ALL of Apple’s computers and monitors come with webcams these days, even the iPhone has a camera in the back.  Why did they not do this? AT&T probably had some say in it, because they SUCK so badly, and wouldn’t be able to handle video conference over 3G.

No Multitasking
They touted this device as something “better” than a netbook, yet it cannot even multitask like a netbook.  ANY netbook is better than this device for this one simple feature.  This feature is “crucial” for a multi-function device like this for it to have any kind of usability outside of basic apps.

The iPhone’ish Operating System
I would’ve preferred something more of a hybrid between the iPhone OS and Mac OS X, I know that would’ve probably required more power and therefore shortened the battery life, but add only 1-2mm thickness and a lot more battery could fit in if shaped correctly.  Having a “fuller” OS probably would’ve solved the multitasking issue and would allow people to run more apps therefore making it that much more of a “usable” device.  Even with this robustness, it would most likely NOT cut into the Laptop market since it doesn’t have a mouse and sometimes you just need a mouse.

No Removable Memory Options
Apple should have simply created 2 versions, a WiFi Only and a WiFi+3G, have some onboard memory, maybe 16 or 32GB, then allow us to expand with it SD cards.  SD Cards are getting bigger all the time and would allow much greater flexibility for expansion.   Of course that would cut into Apple’s profit margins when they want everyone to buy the 128GB version coming out next year.

More Codecs
As much of a “media company” as Apple is, they still need to support the needs of the public as a whole.  Everyone, or at least most, has DiVX AVI or MKV movies that they’ve downloaded or gotten from friends.  It would be really nice if these videos could be natively viewed on this device.

Overall, complaints aside, it is still a nice device.  For the price, it’s still, in my opinion, a much better value than the Amazon Kindle line.  The Kindle is too “plain jane” and black and white while the iPad is the Kindle’s hot younger sister that still has some growing up to do. :-)

I will watch the iPad over the next year or so and if they do make some of these improvements, especially the carrier, multitasking and front-facing camera, I’ll buy 2-3 for me, the kids, and around the house.

Annouced: Apple iPad tablet-like device, iPhone on steroids!


Finally Apple’s tablet device has been officially announced. Steve Jobs just now got done with the presentation finished.

Here are some basic specs…
1/2 inch thin, 1.5 pounds, ~9.7 inch high rez display, 1ghz Apple A4 chip… New Apple chip that contain all the controllers. Accelerometer & compass, WiFi 802.11n, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, speaker/mic and 30pin (standard) connector, 10 hours of battery life, 16 to 64gb Flash storage…

IPhone App compatible and can be scaled up to new screensize (pixel doubling)

More to come.