Everything old shall be new again?

Here’s a project opportunity for a fun, easy open source school project. It’s a dynamic e-commerce store platform built 15 years ago that KILLS Google’s PageSpeed test, but needs some modernization.

I built this in 2002, entirely from scratch. Until 2016, it enabled a retired bicycle shop owner with little computer expertise to run a pretty active online store featuring vintage bicycle gear.

The code was also adapted for a few other clients through the years, although that work has been lost.

Over the years, the code was ported from BSD Unix to Linux, and from PHP3 to PHP5. It is now overdue for another facelift, from function-based PHP5 to object-based PHP7, and to responsive display code.

Meanwhile, the site’s homepage and product pages have the distinction of earning a perfect 100 on Google’s PageSpeed ranking. The category pages rate 99!!

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It’s a jungle out there

I see it all the time. A company pays good money to have a website built, but within a few years, the site is broken, slow, and maybe even taken over by unethical hackers with unscrupulous agendas.

The problem? They did not maintain their website.

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Free Google Maps are no more…

It was great while it lasted…

Google has a long-established pattern of creating great, free services, and then gradually beginning to charge for them. Witness GMail for Domains, which initially allowed 50 then later 10 free accounts, but which now costs $50/user/year for new set-ups (the old, free ones are still grandfathered in — for now).

This time, it’s Maps that Google is aiming to monetize.

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Hackers save another old device

In the “Internet of Things” era, many of the physical electronic artifacts that we purchase function only in tandem with a service component provided by a vendor — even if that component is only the timely release of software updates. In time, the vendor shifts attention to newer models, or is otherwise forced by business realities to abandon support for the artifact, leaving us with devices superannuated not so much by necessity as happenstance.

Luckily, sometimes, the open source community can step in with a fix.

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Domain names — the most important control point

He or she who owns the domain name can control all Internet-related services, including the website, email, and in many cases, social media accounts as well.

In other words, if you have or are planning to have a website, domain email, or other Internet-based service, NOTHING is more important than picking a good domain name and owning it yourself.

It should cost about $15/year to purchase a domain name. If a registrar wants more, they are probably “upselling” you on a bundle of services you do not need. Never pay more than $15/year for domain registration.

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Don’t worry too much about Meltdown and Spectre — plus a few words about how we safeguard your website data

If your website is hosted with us, you should have little to fear from the epic Meltdown and Spectre bugs that surfaced recently.

In case you haven’t heard, these two exploits are among the scariest ever, in part because they affect essentially every computer or device made since 1995. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that these bugs are extremely difficult or impossible to exploit remotely. They mainly affect “the cloud” and other shared hosting environments, where multiple, mutually distrustful users share a single processor. Here, a bad actor could sniff passwords and other sensitive information on an unpatched system.

Sadly, that is by far the most common way that websites are hosted today — on shared hosting environments. However, it is NOT how we do it.

We run our own, exclusive physical hardware server located in a highly secured data center connected to multiple Tier 1 backbones and backed up by a sophisticated emergency backup system. No one but us has access to this system, other than through typical browser-based, well sand-boxed admin panels. Meltdown and Spectre appear to be almost impossible to exploit remotely, and that is good news for us, and our clients, too.

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