Tag Archive: PLUGINS

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:

Disable Pepper to Enable Flash in Chrome

Solve Flash Problem in Chrome Browser

Adobe Flash Not Working

Adobe Flash Not Working on the Adobe site!

For some time now, any web page that uses Flash has resolutely refused to work correctly in the Chrome browser for me.  I use Windows 8 – 64 bit.  Amazingly it all works fine in Firefox, 64-bit Firefox Nightly, Opera, IE10 in 32 & 64 bit incarnations….?

The solution from the chrome help page, is to enable Flash from the plugins menu.  You type this  the address bar to get show all the plugins.

   chrome://plugins/
Chrome Plugins Normal

Chrome Plugins Normal

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work!

Checking the plugin, I see it is apparently working alright!  See the screenshot.

Testing, Testing

I decided to try a “flip” – turning off Flash still didn’t make it work – and neither did it work when I turned it back on.  There’s an Enable/Disable toggle link for this which you can see in the screenshot.

But then, in the top right of the plugins screen, I spied a “detail” link!  So I clicked it to expand it – and all is revealed!

Chrome Plugins Expanded

Chrome Plugins Expanded

Problem Solved!

Adobe Flash Now Working

Adobe Flash Now Working

The issue is that there are two Flash plugins; one is the default “pepper” that comes with Chrome; the other is installed manually and works in all other browsers.

The solution, after a little trial and error, is to disable the native, cross-platform Flash player, “Pepper”, and to enable the manually installed, most-recent, version.  It still won’t work if Pepper is enabled and the installed version disabled.  The Adobe Flash test page now works in Chrome, as you can see.

Below is a screenshot of how it should look (well for me at least!) to get it all working properly.

Chrome Plugins Expanded Flash Working Settings

Chrome Plugins Expanded Flash Working Settings

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WordPress Permalinks Generated But Not Redirected

Introduction

Appalled

Appalled

I’ve had a few site problems whereby my host Site 5, said I was using too many resources and crashing their systems.  Naturally, I was appalled.  I traced this to a variety of plugins plus some errors in php files which must have arrived either during the periodic updates or during editing.  These were errors whereby extra text (either blank space or a carriage return to be precise) were added to the end of the php file, which usually makes it fail.  This a is a Google search on the main error I received,

Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent …  (  This is then followed by error details; usually error on line xx, repeated several times for a variety of xx)

After battling for some time, I just gave up, exported my database key tables (things like posts, comments, etc but omitting plugin inserted tables and the very large options table which I deemed to be very bloated after over five years of continuous WordPress operation…!) and re-installed WordPress as a fresh installation on my server.

Weird Permalink Problem Following Clean Install of WordPress

This is where the weird problem arose….

SP Permalink Settings

SP Permalink Settings

When one installs WordPress for the first time, permalinks are set to the default – so this current post would be:

 http://strangelyperfect.tv/?p=11622

For SEO reasons and for many years I’ve used the format shown in the screenshot from my site shown left.  This current post will thus appear as:

http://strangelyperfect.tv/11622/wordpress-permalinks-generated-but-not-redirected

It’s a “Custom Structure” and the .htaccess file is updated automatically by WordPress when you set it.  You’ll see it’s set to:

/%post_id%/%postname%/

Now, on firing up a post, say this one,

http://strangelyperfect.tv/11428/victory-or-is-it-victory-jesse-willms-surrenders-all-to-ftc-onslaught/ ,

the actual web address I was taken to was:

http://strangelyperfect.tv/%post_id%/victory-or-is-it-victory-jesse-willms-surrenders-all-to-ftc-onslaught/  (error shown in bold)

…which redirected to the homepage of the site, http://strangelyperfect.tv/   This was not what I was expecting!  So I played with the slashes, went back to original simple permalink structure, tried some of the suggested structures – and they all worked!

A custom structure of /%postname%/ worked as well, but not the one I wanted and have used for years.

Weird.   So naturally, I tried Google.

Permalink Redirection Problem Solved.

There’s a lot on the web about this.  Most is about getting .htaccess right with permissions and the code.  But mine was okay, as were all the other suggestions to try.

A real key to resolving my problem was here, Custom Permalinks Generated But Not Redirected in the WordPress forums.  Specifically, it comes from the user, James, a Happiness Engineer!

He suggested adding index.php between the domain name and permalink structure.  So my custom structure changed to:

index.php/%post_id%/%postname%/

WordPress added a leading slash on the save and the website worked!  WAHAY!

However, the best is yet to come….

I thought that the URL was now not pretty, in fact, it was pretty ugly.  The URLs were now being shown like:

http://strangelyperfect.tv/11428/victory-or-is-it-victory-jesse-willms-surrenders-all-to-ftc-onslaught/

So I removed the index.php and reset the custom structure to what I wanted – /%post_id%/%postname%/

It worked!  WAHAY!  All posts’ URLs redirecting  how I wanted!

Conclusion

I’ve no idea, actually.  I’m suspecting some caching, somewhere down the great inter-tubes in the sky, but apart from that…………..?

  • Was it my server?  Dunno.
  • Was it DNS caching?  Dunno.
  • Was it ISP caching? Dunno

All I know is that it’s working now, and the Happiness Engineer’s suggestion sent me on my way, happy.


Postscript – added 22/11/2015

My permalinks in 2015

My permalinks in 2015

Since this time, I have not had to use the index.php fix, and the permalinks are all working correctly.  The flip-flip of adding and removing the fix….just seemed to work!

NoIdeaDeer


 

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Try Firefox, Nightly, 64 bit

Testing Firefox 64-bit Right Now!

Actually, I tried the 64 bit installs of Firefox and Internet Explorer soon after I installed this Windows 7 64 bit Operating System.  They were both pants and summarily removed from my hard drives and I haven’t revisited for over 2 years….

Firefox Nightly

Firefox Nightly

But now things seem on the up.

64-bit is now mainstream with a large 64-bit user base and fewer and fewer 32-bit applications seeing regular usage against the 64-bit versions.  This is Firefox’s “about” info (above) from this browser.  It’s called “Nightly”, and actually (whispers to one side), it’s very good…!!!   Miles better than before, which made the machine crash….

It’s….

  • Faster
  • Worked first time
  • Installed okay.
  • Needed Flash plugins which were directly available, and work!
  • Worked okay with all my current plugins – Web Developer, Flagfox, Quirk SearchStatus and the rest.  Amazing.  They all worked!
  • Got it’s own icon
  • Installs into it’s own folder separate to Firefox
  • Carries over all Firefox settings & shortcuts.
  • Carries over all Firefox add-ons & plugins, if they work.
  • only needed a new Flash install to get it working the way it was on 32-bit

So now I’m going to try 64-bit browsing as a real test.

Extra Information

Download Links
32 v 64
  • You need a 64-bit Operating System as well as a 64-bit processor to run 64-bit applications.
  • 32-bit Windows running on a 64-bit AMD processor (for example), won’t work.

 

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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.

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