Tag Archive: Alternative

Akismet and Jetpack Issues, Stop Spammers and CloudFlare Save the Day

My Web Host Penalised Me Yet Helped Speed Up My Site

Introduction

shared web hosting

shared web hosting

This site used to be hosted on Site5, in Texas.  I had a shared web host account, about the cheapest there is on Site5 though by no means the cheapest around (I’ve had experience of really cheap hosts….).  It worked alright, site management was good.  Then, I got hit by spammers.  Twice.  Big time.

Each time, this slowed the site down, made life hell for other shared accounts, especially when I introduced WordPress plugins to counter this.

Naturally, Site5 advised me to stop the hits or they’d pull my account (they’d already temporarily disabled it).  They advised me to cut the plugins, using GoDaddy’s plugin testing tool, WordPress Plugin Performance Profiler (P3).  So I did this, and after some trial and error, got the running processes down.  Of course, I lost a bit of neat functionality.

Testing Times

Apart from internal WordPress testing, it pays to test your site as if you are someone else somewhere else.  Pingdom have a set of tools that does just this, testing from various global locations and I can recommend it.

Result!

I used an iterative approach, testing various combinations of plugins and systems to end up as being in the top 8% sites for speed in the world!  Not bad for free is all I can say!   You’ll see in the screenshot above, that 92% of websites are slower than mine….   So is it really free?  Here goes…..

Paid For:
  • Web Hosting.  Shared.
  • My domain registration.
Free:
  • WordPress and all the LAMP functionality
  • WordPress plugins
  • CloudFlare
Pingdom Says

Pingdom Says

Automattic Issues

WordPress (which this site uses) is built by the Automattic team and naturally have expanded over time.  I’ve used their plugins for many years, Akismet from the off, which is a comment spam blocking system.  Latterly, they came out with Jetpack, where they say,

Supercharge your WordPress site with powerful features previously only available to WordPress.com users.

Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that supercharges your self-hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com.

P3 Selected Output

P3 Selected Output

This is all well and good, except when I tested it using the P3 plugin profiler, Jetpack was the biggest drag on everything!   The worst part of it, was that actually, I was only using a small part of its features and it was still the biggest suck on performance.

  • I didn’t use Carousel for photos since I had an old solution, NextGen Gallery, that I’m loathe to change.
  • The comments system mucked up all other comment plugins, grabbing all for itself (a bit like Microsoft here!)
  • I used the stats, and that was about all, yet they were very slow and not that informative, actually.
  • Nearly all the other stuff I looked at, tried and ditched for similar reasons.

So much for the awesome cloud power.  On top of this, you’re now supposed to pay for parts of Automattic’s offerings, like Akismet, the comment spam blocker while a major offering of theirs was actually slowing my site right up!

What Did I do?

Change host!

Well not initially, actually, though the heavy-handed Site5 approach got my ire a bit I must admit.  I did do loads of tests with a host of caching, anti-spam and page load improvement plugins first…

Vidahost

Vidahost

I now use Vidahost in the UK.  The site is faster to manage (along with my others) since the servers are in the UK with me, and it’s cheaper, providing almost the same functionality and tools as Site 5.  I took the opportunity to clean out a few dead files in the process, but essentially, all was moved, database and files.  The lot.  Just twiddled config.php and the .htaccess file a bit.

did worry that my American visitors, who are actually in the majority, would  suffer slower speed and thus I’d get hit in Google rankings, but hey, wait for later…!

I got it all working and as part of the whole “thinking” process since the very first warnings from Site 5, I’d been looking for better things.

Looking at Things Closely

  • I like Related Posts.   Related Posts plugins do just that.  I love the idea of pulling out meta-data relevant stuff from a website.  Site 5 had said, as have others on the web, that this sort of plugin makes big hits on a site.  Some of them really do!  I use  YARPP, with a limited subset of features enabled which cuts down processing.
  • I also like Andrew Ozz’s Shutter Reloaded which shows images nicely.   I also like his post editor, TinyMCE Advanced, it being the best of many I’ve tested over the years.
  • I like NextGEN Gallery having used it since before WordPress got all image fancy.  I haven’t got time to fiddle with thousands of photos now…
  • I’d like some statistics within WordPress.
  • I’m not that interested, any-more (though I was) in Social Networking sharing features.  Truth be told, if someone wants to share, they will.
  • I’ve read a lot on image improvements.  I’ve always shrunk images manually before uploading using the excellent IrfanView application.  But during this enforced research, other things like sprites and delayed image loading popped into the equation.

So I like certain plugins or functionality.  I try and use the one that works best for me.  Too many plugins make a big hit on the server and thus website loading.

Caching

A way round this is caching.  e.g. If a post is created and has related posts clagged on the bottom using YARPP, then the post is cached and YARRP is only running once.  How and where the caching is done is the crux of the issue…

Site 5 suggested W3 Total Cache as a better alternative to Wp Super Cache,  which I’ve used for years.    Naturally, I’ve tested this and my conclusion was that it could be fast, and it was fast for a while, but over time on each of my sites I got issues around lock-ups and the huge and complex caching system around files, databases and sprites.  This list is long.

I’ve also tested various database query caching plugins likewise over the years.  W3 Total Cache incorporates this method too, but ultimately, it made too much work for not a lot of difference IMHO, since I’m lazy.

However, it did point me to one thing!  CloudFlare.

CloudFlare

CloudFlare Admin1

CloudFlare Admin1

Ah.  The power of the cloud is back!

Not only that – it works!

CloudFlare Admin2

CloudFlare Admin2

You re-direct your DNS at your domain registrar (joker.com in my case) to CloudFlare’s DNS servers, set up the site malware protection level you want – then after a few hours your whole site is cached and protected.  Best of all, it’s free for a little site like this!

In fact, using CloudFlare speeded everything up even before I got caching going again…

Further Plugin Work

Now, I went back to Wp Super Cache from Doncha and it all works fine.  Site speed good.  I then ditched Jetpack after testing it again.  It really does interfere with all comment plugins, and I really like this comment one as do people who comment here:

  • U Extended Comment

It works great and does everything I want.  So Jetpack, it’s bye bye.  Take all your fancy commenting system, your stats, your social media and fancy image handling.

But What About Comment Spam?

Stop Spammer Results2

Stop Spammer Results2

Stop Spammer Results1

Stop Spammer Results1

I’ve found the best solution is a plugin called Stop Spammer Registrations Plugin.  It needed a bit of fine tuning and a re-activation of Akismet to whip out a few wisps of spammer, but it works and seems to trap and report more spammers than ever Akismet did alone.  Akismet, by itself, does the commenting bit in tandem with the plugin, rather well.

Registration Spam

SABRE Results

SABRE Results

Unfortunately, during testing, a few unwanted visitors managed to register on the website.  They can’t do real harm since I use the lowest role level at registration time.  So I re-enabled SABRE and since then, no more unwanted visitors.  I’ve tested SABRE as a visitor and the settings I’ve chosen are just about right – I’ve had issues with it previously when it blocked registration!  But reducing the feature set and re-uploading a clean plugin fixes that.

CloudFlare and the CDN Issue

I toyed around getting a CDN to host images.  But they (can) cost and anyway, I’ve gone off Amazon and others because of their anti-Wikileaks actions plus they don’t pay UK tax…

Delayed Image Loading

However, in the course of my reading, I found that images can be loaded just as the page comes into view, which speeds up page loading, and as a consequence the perceived nippiness of a site.  The plugin BJ Lazy Load does this for me and works brilliantly.  Check this last post about Australia which has a lot of medium sized images to see them pop into view!

Delayed Javascript Loading

I use two plugins that handle this end of the issue around JavaScript.

Statistics

WP SlimStat1

WP SlimStat1

Well, Jetpack is gone.  I won’t be using it unless some serious improvements are made, it being the prime reason for the server load that brought me to this position in  the first place.  As soon as I disabled it (and simultaneously blocked all comments to the site, which isn’t the best thing, this being a blog after all), all server loads went away.

I now use SlimStat and it works very well.  I’ve tried many over time, including Google’s analysis tools, my webhost’s stats tools, Wassup and more, but for now, this is it.

Conclusion

My site works pretty fast and is pretty protected from the bad guys.  I actually still use more plugins than what is usually recommended – 50 is a huge lot according to web gurus and sages.  Currently there are 31 in active operation with 8 inactivated.  I love trying new ones, it’s like that, that’s just the way it is.

The delayed image loading is particularly apparent on a post with a lot of images, say this recent one.  The post loads fast and you see the first images load, and as you scroll down you’ll see other images appear with a slight delay.

All the other stuff is incremental improvement, with the biggest, by far, being the free CloudFlare service which I cannot recommend highly enough.  It’s a no-brainer, go and do it?

My Full List?

These are the plugins currently running that help my site work.  Many are for security, which demonstrates the state of play versus the bad internet guys full well.

Related Posts:

How WordPress Spam Works

WordPress Comment Spam

The plague of all blogs is spam, mainly comment spam, by sheer numerical superiority.

Q.  Why Do They Do It?

A. As a minimum, they do it to open a back-door into your blog that allows the perpetrator to place reverse linkages to another website to increase that website’s visibility in search engine results (so called “Search Engine Optimisation” – SEO ).  This back-linkage they use to increase website search hits, which they can charge an ignorant website beginner big money for.

At the worst, the culprit would gain full access to the blog allowing free posting and deletions or even the complete removal of your website content.

Today’s Example

Today, I got a comment that made me check further as notionally, it looked okay-ish. These are the details (click image for full-size view of the comment as it appears in the WordPress admin section):

Comment Spam Example

Comment Spam Example

The Jacksonville lawyer is in Florida and has this website; http://www.divorceyes.com/index.html, and the actual comment is pretty kosher, although brief, saying;

Strangely you have made an awesome post and i appreciate your work and keep it up. Thanks for sharing this with us.

This is all very nice, but check out the IP address….

WHOIS 113.203.135.140

By checking the WHOIS for this, we see that the IP Address for this supposedly reputable Florida lawyer (Divorce Yes) is in Karachi, Pakistan!  Well are they?  My guess, given the cheap web costs in the USA, is that Divorce Yes is in the US and that they wouldn’t for an instant even consider anywhere else!

And so it is!  The actual WHOIS for Divorce Yes is in Florida!  (The actual WHOIS for the web-hosting, fortehosting.com is in Illinois).  The registrant’s name (Miller) also agrees with the Divorce Yes’s contact details here, but note; the email address in the comment, [email protected], is not the same as the email address on the contact page, which is [email protected]

Registrant:

jeff miller

1019 grand court

highland beach, Florida 33487

United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. https://uk.godaddy.com/)

Domain Name: DIVORCEYES.COM

Created on: 07-Jun-05

Expires on: 07-Jun-16

Last Updated on: 17-Feb-07

Administrative Contact:

miller, jeff [email protected]

1019 grand court

highland beach, Florida 33487

United States

(561) 445-6962 Fax — (561) 347-7588

Technical Contact:

miller, jeff [email protected]

1019 grand court

highland beach, Florida 33487

United States

(561) 445-6962 Fax — (561) 347-7588

Domain servers in listed order:

NS1.FORTEHOSTING.COM

NS2.FORTEHOSTING.COM

Conclusion

There isn’t a conclusion really.  This is just an example of the way that text harvesting is being used to make seemingly intelligent comments slip past the comment filters on a WordPress blog.

As many of these filters rely on an IP address, if the webmaster lets a dodgy IP address through just once then it’ll be marked as “good” by the filters which will then allow the spammer to post even more comments, all for the various nefarious reasons that I mentioned first.

This is why I use a plugin like WP-SpamFree, and using it I can block all incoming pings from a given IP address, in this case, 113.203.135.140!

For interest, I’ve edited out the back-link from the spam comment above and you can find it on this post, Pacific Webworks, Lawyers and Social Networking, here.

Alternative Conclusion

This isn’t a conclusion again, but my examination of alternative possibilities, but note the following:

  • The Divorce Yes website is made and SEO’d by http://enettechnologies.com/.
  • WordPress is used on the website.
  • Many WordPress plugins exist to “improve” the SEO of a website.  (I use some!)
    • Some do it by ensuring meta and other data is added if it’s missing.
    • Others have sprung up over the last few years that “intelligently” link to other websites….  they harvest websites for text and linkages for later use, much like email spammers scan websites for email addresses to spam.  [n.b.  I use PHPEnkoder from Michael Greenberg to hide email addresses on this site from email address harvesters.]

It could be, although I cannot prove or disprove it, but because some of this spam I receive is now pretty readable as with this one above, that plugins are being used for much of the hits I get.  This comment  could be such an example, or the law website name is being used textually as a smokescreen for the Pakistani spammer.  I see lots of adverts along these lines that couldn’t possibly rely on manual  human link placements for their effectiveness….

I’d be interested to hear from Miller Law or their website designer on this one.  It’s not the first time that I’ve had reputable businesses appear on my website like this and I’d like to know what it appears like at their end, if at all.  It does make me wonder if this very website is being used to cloak spam at other websites in the same manner.

This is why I’ve left all URL back-links to the parties in place so that they’ll see them in their logs.

Related Posts:

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What is the Best Backup for Windows in a Small Home or Office?

What is the Best Backup for Windows in a Small Home or Office?

Which Windows Backup?  A History.

Over the years I’ve tried many systems for backing up crucial Windows data.  Currently for small-scale backups I use the ubiquitous and almost bullet-proof flash drives, my current one tipping the scales at 8Gb.  But for major backups, as the years have passed, I’ve used;

  1. Floppy discs – 1.4Mb
  2. Iomega Zip discs – 100Mb
  3. CDRW – 650Mb
  4. DVD-R – 4.7Gb
  5. Western Digital My Book Home Edition – 1Tb

They all had their problems and limitations.  The last one looked good with Firewire, USB2, ethernet  & eSATA connections – but it overheated and broke…..

Best Windows Backup!

My current system is from Synology and is a “DS210j – Budget-friendly 2-bay NAS server for Home and Small Business”

See: http://www.synology.com/enu/products/DS210j/index.php

I can heartily recommend the thing.  It has so much gubbins within it and far exceeds my limited expectations.  I installed two green 2Tb drives from Western Digital  in mirrored RAID for security and use the auto-backup software provided as well as Windows’ own.  This is extremely relevant for the large number of hits I’ve had to this posting where a major part of the problem is the time taken to do a backup!  In my case, the 750Gb just takes a few hours to copy across the Gigabit speed ethernet that the unit can use.

Addendum June 2011: The tool is a seriously capable bit of kit and I cannot recommend it enough. Get one!

It does everything it says on the tin, and more!  The whole thing cost me about 200 quid, plus an hour of my time to install.

Even its firewall is more configurable than any router I’ve used!  It can be used as a server for FTP or the web.  It comes with software for a host of things that mimic Flikr etc but without all the privacy or security issues inherent in off-line storage.  It’ll also run with any operating system because it itself is a mini-linux installation as it is,  and includes Windows, Apple and Linux applications.
Check it out, straight from their overview page:

Build Your Entertainment Center

Download Station 2 functions as a 24×7 BitTorrent, FTP, HTTP, eMule, and NZB download center. RapidShare and RSS download are now supported.

DLNA Compliant Media Sever ensures compatibility and interoperability between Disk Station and a wide range of DLNA-certified home devices.

iTunes Server provides an easy way to share music and videos with other iTunes clients within the local network. You can create playlists with songs that match the criteria you specified, and best of all, iTunes will update these playlists automatically as you add or delete songs.

Audio Station supports music, Internet radio stations, and iPod playback with connected USB speakers. Web-streaming mode allows your music to be shared with multiple users over the Internet.

Back Up Your Precious Data

DSM 2.2 offers comprehensive solutions for you to back up data stored on Disk Station or your desktop computer to the Disk Station.

Server backup includes two alternatives: Network Backup and Local Backup. Both allow you to back up data in the shared folders and databases. Incremental backup option and flexible schedules are available. All can be easily configured with a step-by-step wizard.

Desktop backup provides Windows PC users with the Synology Data Replicator 3 for backing up desktop data, Outlook, and Outlook Express emails to their Disk Station by choosing one of the three backup modes: Immediate, Sync, and Scheduled backup, while Mac OS X users can use Apple Time Machine backup application to back up their critical data to Disk Station.

USBCopy allows you to quickly back up your data from an USB storage device such as an USB flash or USB card reader to the Disk Station with just one single touch on the front-panel Copy button.

Enrich Your Web Presence

Photo Station 3 simplifies photo, video, and blog sharing over the Internet. The flexibility of photo theme customization, blog layout arrangement, visitor’s privilege setting, RSS feed, and the dazzling 3-dimentional photo browsing with Cooliris make Photo Station 3 your state-of-the-art lifestyle sharing center on the Internet.

Web Station with built-in PHP+MySQL allows users to publish their own websites or install numerous popular open-source programs.

Access With Your iPhone/Mobile Device

The iPhone App DS audio allows Disk Station users to stream music stored on Disk Station with their iPhone/iPod® touch where Internet access is available, while DS photo allows uploading photos from the iPhone/iPod® touch to their Disk Station.

Users with a mobile device running on Windows Mobile® 6.0, iPhone OS 2.2.1 onward, or Symbian OS 9.1 can log on their Disk Station to view photos with Mobile Photo Station and read supported file formats with Mobile File Station where Internet access is available.

Eco Friendly

Eco Friendly

Synology Disk Station is designed and developed perpetually with the concept of energy saving. Compared with average PC counterparts, Synology Disk Station consumes a relatively low amount of power and has the HDDs hibernate when not in use. This not only helps to save energy but also extends the lifespan of the hard disk.

Synology Disk Station truly earns the title of “green product” because of the unique Scheduled Power On/Off feature, and the smart fan design effectively cools down the system with minimum power consumption, yet keeps the system quiet on operation.

Finally, all Synology products are produced with RoHS compliant parts and packed with recyclable packing materials. Synology recognizes its responsibility as a global citizen and is continually working to reduce the environmental impact of the products we create.

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Now You See it, Now You Don’t!

Is Nuclear power Safe?

  • Watch how the politicians duck and dive.
  • Watch how they pick and choose which bits of ‘science’ to believe!
Gymnasium at Pripyat

Abandoned for 100 Years

Last week, smiley Alan Johnson fell out with serious Professor Nutt because the professor said some factual scientific things, things proven by statistics and analysis to have an overwhelming degree of proof.  This was that drinking alcohol and smoking is far more dangerous than cannabis and ecstasy pills.  See dont-shoot-the-messenger-if-you-dont-like-the-message and associated links.

Now, this week, Ed Milliband has taken the opposite approach and said:

Nuclear power is safe, says Ed Miliband

So, despite there being three major accidents involving nuclear power, he says it’s safe!  In actual fact, he said this:

“I do understand the anxieties that there are because there have been concerns about nuclear power.”    “I think it is right that we go ahead with this. It has a good safety record. There is no evidence that people’s fears about nuclear are grounded, in my view.”

The trouble with this, is that a nuclear accident isn’t the same as a car crash, it isn’t at all like a train crash or a plane crash.  It actually isn’t anything like an earthquake or tsunami, natural hazards that many have to live with.

Hinkley Point

Hinkley Point Power Station

In a nutshell, if Hinkley Point Power Station down the road from me goes up in a similar fashion to Chernobyl, because of the prevailing wind, most of England will be uninhabitable and we’ll all have to go to Scotland!

The Three Close Shaves

In order, there was Windscale when I was a child and was exposed to Strontium in the milk which had to be chucked away for months.  The records show that this was a really close shave for us in Britain and Scandinavia – only half an hour away from a worse-than-Chernobyl disaster!

Then we had Three-Mile Island, another skin of the teeth episode but this time by the Americans.

Then there was Chernobyl which has left a 100 mile square piece of Russia uninhabitable and left sheep inedible thousands of miles away in Britain for years.  If the Chernobyl event had been here, as I say, all the Midlands would’ve needed evacuating.  As it is, Russia is very, very big, and they’ve room to move…..  We don’t.  It’s a little island.  Full of jobs-worth’s and idiots, by the sound of it.

Belief

Subway to Nowhere

Subway to Nowhere

Q. So which scientist is Milliband believing?  Which scientist says it’s “safe”?

Q. What evidence is Milliband ignoring that leads him to think people’s fears are “ungrounded”, as he says?

A. The evidence of his head in the sand, that’s what!

In this case he is using the infrequent bad events and calling them safe because they don’t happen often.  And because we’ve been very, very lucky; that’s all.

The stats show something different, because there are only about a couple of hundred nuclear plants across the globe!  Three have gone up!!!  For me, this is piss-poor odds and I don’t wish the lottery-like risks, especially when there are a host of other alternatives.

Lovelock

relax...

Relax

James Lovelock said some years ago that nuclear power was inevitable in order to have a controllable and civilised future.

He’s a clever man, but that doesn’t mean he’s always correct.

In his same speech (on TV some years ago), he said that an incident killing about 1 million people every 100 years was almost inevitable, but comparing it to road transport, or to dying from an overheating world, or the natural cancers we’d get anyway,  then many more would die in the same period….

That’s statistics and that’s a scientist speaking.  It’s the balance of probabilities and the the certainty of proof expressed in numbers.

However, it does not make it right and it does not make it something to which we should aspire.

Obstacles

Mr. & Mrs. Pump

Vested interests

There has to be a better way – and there is.  There are a pot of technologies available, especially when the economies of scale in mass manufacture are taken into account.  I don’t mean battery cars, the biggest red herring ever.  But there ARE a host of solutions and the biggest obstacles are:

  • Vested interests – oil companies and the politicians and businessmen that are attached.
  • Lack of belief – we people can do anything we set our minds to – even splitting the atom and making global war with it!
  • Stasis in Innovation – a host of tools are already available but people are scared and no-one wants to take the first step…

But look at it this way.  If all houses and industrial premises are forced by law to be covered with low cost film photovoltaic cells, how much electricity will we have and how many people MIGHT get hurt if a roof collapses?

A. A lot of electric and not many people!

Surely, something like this is worth trying rather than putting a host of concrete death stars on our doorsteps?

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Vote for Crawling Chaos!

Introduction

AMD Phenom II x4 955 Black Edition

AMD Phenom II x4 955 Black Edition

CPU-Z Mainboard

CPU-Z Mainboard

In the Russian Dolls virtual world of my PC (I’ve currently upgraded to a AMD Phenom II 4x core 955 Black Edition which now allows me to run at least six Operating Systems (OS) concurrently – at the last count!), I have a Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) inside two virtual versions of Windows XP connected to work with drives and printers mapped every which way and also via a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

CPU-Z CPU

CPU-Z CPU

I’m running Windows 7 and the two virtualization programs are Windows Virtual PC (using XPMode) and the much better, Sun VirtualBox.  It’s hard to keep track of it, what’s real and what’s not, if you see what I mean…?

Q. So what?  I hear you ask…

Well I got a Google Alert today which flagged a mysterious call to vote.  It pointed here:

Vote Crawling Chaos for Congress in Jeollabuk-do! (click)

Intrigued, I followed, and you can too….

Vote Crawling Chaos for Jeollabuk-do and Imperial Sun party for eJapan!

Vote Crawling Chaos for Jeollabuk-do and Imperial Sun party for eJapan!

A. It’s a virtual world where people can virtually vote for virtual political parties in the constructed world called ERepublik (100% free and only minutes to sign up, it says).  All the papers have been talking about it and so far it appears that ~10k folks from each actual country are signed up.

Me? The real world is virtually enough.  It’s more like The Matrix by the minute!  So, welcome, to the real world!

– and vote for Crawling Chaos! ha ha.

Crawling Chaos Official Website

Crawling Chaos Official Website

Of course, my extra computing power now allows me to see the background animation for the Crawling Chaos website.  Wahay!  It’s a slow moving background colour change, which, bizarrely, is something I planned but never implemented as subtle room lighting when Crawling Chaos were in The Pits Studio.

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