Starcraft2 – Beta

SC2Well… I got my hands on a copy of the SC2 beta and played it for a few hours and the only real thing that I can say I’m disappointed in is the inability to zoom out.  You can zoom in and see the intricate details of a battle but when push comes to shove your ability to multitask and micro-manage are going to be what decides whether you win or lose.  I personally would prefer having a larger viewing area available or at the least an option to allow the camera to zoom out further.

During a larger battle I find myself constantly scrolling around (even when it’s a battle in only one location) to see what is going on in all locations where as if I could zoom out a bit more, I wouldn’t have to do that.

I guess I just wanted to complain about something, so here it is.

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SolusVM VPS Control Panel Good *and* Bad?

The Beginning

At the hosting provider I own we originally started offering Virtual Private Servers late 2008 to address the needs of our clients who were outgrowing shared but didn’t yet want to move to a full-blown dedicated environment.  We did offer VPSs for about 6 months before the HyperVM scare at FsckVPS happened where dozens of VPS nodes were wiped clean and data lost.  We then decided to discontinue HyperVM and worked on migrating our existing VPS clients to other providers we worked with and trusted to be reliable.

The Good

Fast forward to late 2009 when we brought our first new SolusVM VPS server node online.  SolusVM has been an exceptional control panel with a good list of features and while it is missing some basic features such as bandwidth reports, cpu graphs, and memory graphs SolusVM has been working on improving their software over time.  We can handle a few missing “features” as long as we know that those features are in development and will be added.

The administration control panel and the user side of the control panel are very clean and concise while still being very powerful.  The only gripes we originally had with SolusVM was the inability to customize the client side templates and re-brand the solution however they did enable this ability and so far we love the control panel in this aspect.

SolusVM does offer a forum where you can post your questions and issues and receive support from others using the software as well and fairly regularly a SolusVM staff member will also stop by and help out as well.  There is also a support ticket system should you have an issue that is urgent or that does require some privacy.  Our general experiences with SolusVM support over both methods has been fairly good – I wouldn’t go so far as to say great but the support definitely has not been bad.

The Bad Continue reading

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Tynt Insight – Very Interesting!

TyntWell a friend of mine sent me over to tynt.com to check out Tynt Insight.  I watched the video on their front page and then decided I would go ahead and give it a shot here on MikeDVB.com.  What is really neat about it is that you can select an excerpt from any of the posts or content on the site and when you copy it and then paste it somewhere (like an email or IM) it will include a link to read the rest of the page automatically.

Edit: I did find that there is no way to selectively disable this feature which makes copying shell commands out of a blog post difficult as you have to edit each copy before pasting it into a shell session.  I’ve disabled Tynt until I find a way to disable it per-page but I am open to suggestions 🙂

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Disappointed in Sony – LCD TV Servere HDMI Sound Issues (KDL-52V5100)

So the wife and I love to play Xbox 360 together and up until recently we only had a single 32″ LCD TV (Sony) that we’ve had for nearly 4 years and it has been an amazing problem-free TV. We decided to pick up a second Xbox 360 and a new TV and we figured if we were going to get a new TV we might as well get something we really like and ended up choosing a Sony 52″ LCD TV because it’s a beautiful TV, has a wonderful picture, and we’ve had amazing performance out of our current Sony LCD TV. As it turns out our decision to choose the Sony TV was a mistake.

I’ll admit that I didn’t do the appropriate research before choosing this TV and had I done so I likely would have avoided this model but at this point it’s too late to do anything about it. Almost daily the TV will begin having HDMI sound issues where the sound signal loses it’s continuity – it sounds almost as though somebody is muting and then unmuting the sound very quickly once every second or so which is at the least very annoying and it doesn’t stop there. About 5 minutes after the sound begins having issues it will start to cut out for extended periods of time of up to 15 or 20 seconds and then go back to cutting in and out quickly. Sometimes the sound simply drops out all together and doesn’t come back – the solution to all of these problems is to unplug the TV and to plug it back in. We’ve tried simply powering off the TV, switching HDMI ports, switching Xbox 360s, trying other HD input sources, trying different HDMI cables and the result is that the TV has issues.

I hope that this article will come up in a search and help anybody considering this model to choose another less problematic TV. I’m not trying to bash Sony here (they do make some good products) but they obviously didn’t test this TV thoroughly and once the issue was reported they did release a software update that hasn’t fixed the issue. When I called Sony about this they told me that I had the latest software on the TV (which I had already verified on my own) and that there was no solution to the issue.

I uploaded a clip of the TV acting up – it’s fairly long and I do discuss the issues with my wife a little in the background. I was holding an Xbox 360 controller as well as the TV remote during most of the video. I did hit Mute a couple of times during the video to demonstrate that we’re not just muting the sound (it would show up in the bottom left hand corner) and to illustrate that it’s an issue with the TV.

Update – 04/23/2010


So after doing a lot of research and reading I managed to get my hands on a “secret” copy of the firmware for this TV with a release date of 12/04/2009 which is 4 months newer than the latest version on the site and that was previously on the TV.  This came directly from a Sony engineer here in the US and due to the nature of the firmware it wipes out all existing settings on the TV (any customizations made to picture, etc) which is why it’s not posted on the site or so that is what I was told.

I’ve installed the new software, tweaked all of my settings back and so far so good.  We played about 5 hours of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 without any HDMI audio issues and personally I think the picture looks brighter/better than it did previously but that could just be me looking closer than I did before.  I’ll definitely update this post in a couple of weeks after I’ve had enough time to conclusively say that it’s resolved the HDMI sound issues and if that’s the case I’ll make a download of the firmware available.  If you have this TV and want to try the firmware drop me a comment and I’ll get it over to you via email.

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Sales Ticket with an [Interesting Character]

At MDDHosting today we received an order which our sales department reviewed and determined was likely fraud and marked the order as such.  We shortly there after received an email from the individual who will hence forth be known as “Interesting Character” to protect their identity.  While they may not actually be a fraudster – their order details and actions all indicated that they most likely were.

The individual signed up using a first name and last initial only, their mailing address was a mail forwarding address, and many other red flags were sent up when this individual attempted to order services.

Here is a complete view of the email conversation with all personally identifying information redacted and by all means read it over and let me know what you think in the comments.

Interesting Character
Potential Client
03/31/2010 20:39
hello,
it seems like there is an issue with my order. can you please review it and approve it?
thank you
[Interesting Character]

Continue reading

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Beware of “Web Hosting Review” and “Top 10 Web Hosts” Sites

As many readers of this site may already know I own and operate MDDHosting, LLC – a web hosting firm based out of Franklin, Indiana and we have been in business for over 2 years and 3 months as of the writing of this post.  Over the last 27 months I have seen just about every type of fraud, scam, and lie and in my personal opinion affiliate scams have to be one of the larger issues facing web hosting consumers today.

Anybody with enough experience in the industry knows that most “web hosting review” and “top 10 web hosts” type of sites are simply affiliate link farms where the goal is to pull in as many visitors to click on their affiliate links as possible.  Someone experienced in the industry who has “been there, done that” will often see through this and knows to conduct their own research and won’t fall for these tricks but someone new to the industry and turning to Google for advice won’t.  While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that, what bothers me is when the site makes commission in a misleading way.  Some sites actually do write up a decent review of the provider and provide links to sign up which is entirely understandable but some are not so honest and straightforward in their dealings.

One such site that is operating in a misleading way is “AlreadyHosting.com” which is operated by Jonathan Burdon of Murray, Kentucky.  While going over our affiliate sales I noticed that one particular affiliate had an extraordinarily high conversion rate and to be honest I wanted to know what they were doing to achieve a conversion rate of 9%.

MDDHosting "Review" at AlreadyHosting.com Their site “reviews” as of this writing 111 companies which is not a lot when you look at the hosting industry itself as having thousands of individual providers.  When you look at any one of their providers that they review you may be surprised at the utter lack of any content or reviews (I certainly was).  I have pictured the page that I found was sending the affiliate referrals to us and commented directly in the image as to how their methods are misleading. Not only does every host that they “review” offer links to “Promo pricing” and “Coupon Codes & Promotional Links”, but every one of these links goes directly to the provider dropping the affiliate code without giving any promotional codes or pricing.

I contacted Jonathan (read entire conversation here) and explained to him that we felt that he was misleading his visitors by offering links to coupon codes and promotional pricing when those links actually just dropped them on the affiliate URL where no such information can be found.  We let him know that we were doing so pro-actively and that while we could have let him continue sending us visitors and simply refused to pay him any money at a later date but that we simply were not that type of company.

AlreadyHosting.com uses it’s SERP power to be seen for “[Hosting Company Name] Review” which means that the customer isn’t simply browsing for a list of providers but is looking for specific information on a provider that they are already considering.  At the time of this writing I did a Google search for “GreenGeeks Review” and in 9th place is “GreenGeeks Review & Coupon Codes | AlreadyHosting.com”.  Upon visiting this URL you will see that there is no review but there are links promising promotional pricing and coupon codes which anybody that is already considering that provider is going to click on.  As soon as the visitor clicks on the link they are taken to the provider’s site and should that visitor continue researching the company before buying – AlreadyHosting will obtain commission on the sale due to the visitor having been interested in coupon codes and promotional pricing.

In my conversation with Jonathan I explained to him that we were more than happy to keep him on board with us as an affiliate as long as he was willing to modify the page to actually link to the content it claims to link to (i.e. promotional information or coupon codes) or to simply not claim to link to such content if it isn’t doing so and rather than editing the review page to modify or remove the misleading hyperlinks Jonathan decided to respond with a threat:

If you do not reconsider we will keep your
review active and will tell our readers how you treat affiliates and will
directly recommend that they sign up for another company. I will also
invest a lot in SEO for that page to ensure that it ranks high for all of
your keywords.

Upon visiting the “MDDHosting Review” on AlreadyHosting.com after this email exchange I found that he has updated the page with an “Important Note” stating that we had discontinued his affiliate account with us, which we have.  I have no particular problem with this but what I do find interesting is the site claims to be a site containing the “BEST WEB HOSTING REVIEWS” which would lead the average hosting consumer to believe that they either have tried and reviewed the services they “review” directly or they have input from third parties who have done so and as such list them based upon their quality of service and support which is obviously not the case.  Should any of these “best web hosting providers” find that AlreadyHosting.com is misleading their potential customers and committing affiliate fraud by using misleading hyperlinks AlreadyHosting.com may end up having to place this notice on more pages than just ours.

At the end of the day I don’t suggest trusting any of the “Web Hosting Review” or “Top 10 Web Hosts”  sort of sites as they are all affiliate driven and a vast majority of them are simply misleading.  If you do happen across a site offering coupon codes or promotional codes and it turns out there are none to be had make sure to clear your cookies so that you don’t pay these crooks for misleading you.  I highly suggest a resource that is not affiliate driven for researching hosting providers such as the WebHostingTalk.com Forums.

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Jonathan Burdon – AlreadyHosting.com – Archive

This page originally contained an complete email conversation between myself and Jonathan Burdon however due to legal issues (copyright) I’ve been required to pull down those emails.  Fortunately this doesn’t stop me from speaking about Jonathan’s less than ethical actions including cookie stuffing as well as “reviews” lacking any sort of content or value.

Feel free to read about Mr. Burdon and AlreadyHosting.com’s less than ethical strategies to obtain affiliate commissions:

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Installing Apache + PHP + MySQL + MSSQL Extension on CentOS5

This is a short guide that will show you how to install Apache, PHP, MySQL, and MSSQL Extensions on a CentOS5 Server or VPS.  All “quote” blocks are to be executed in SSH (shell) as root.

Getting the server ready to build applications from source:

Check for any RPM installations of the applications.

rpm -qa | grep -i apache
rpm -qa | grep -i httpd
rpm -qa | grep -i php
rpm -qa | grep -i mysql

Remove any RPM installations found with the “rpm -e” command:

rpm -e application_name_here

Install some base requirements to compile and install the software. Continue reading

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Windows7 Ultimate – First Impressions

At first glance Windows7 is a very nice upgrade and in my opinion it is what Vista should have been.  The Windows7 installation was quick and painless and the user experience is very quick and efficient.  I’ve noticed a reduction in system resource usage in Windows7 over Windows Vista.

There is one small thing that is bothering me…  I run dual monitors as I use this as my workstation and it often helps to have things side by side instead of on top of each other.  I have seen the commercials of the “snap” feature and it looks like it would be very nice but the implementation when using dual monitors is less than I would expect.

You can snap a window to the left of the monitor on the left, or to the right of the monitor on the right, but not to the opposite sides of either monitor.  Before you say that it’s because there is no “edge” between the two monitors – my primary monitor is 1600×1200 and my secondary is 1280×1024 and there is definitely an edge when going from the larger to the smaller monitor that i can hit the mouse up against.

I honestly can’t think of a real good way for Microsoft to implement the “snap” feature on a multiple monitor configuration that wouldn’t be more trouble than it’s worth and I can see the argument against even using it if you are running 2+ monitors but it’s the principal of the issue as far as I am concerned.

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Domain Squatting – Really???

So I have a new puppy and I’ve been searching Google to find a good resource for information on the breed and I was surprised not to see any really good forums related to the breed.  I love operating forums and I thought it was a good idea to perhaps register a domain and set up a forum for owners of the breed and this is where the problems started.  It seems that every domain name that I’ve tried that would even remotely work for the forum is parked by some sort of domain squatter as you can see with these examples:

http://www.welshcorgis.com/
http://www.corgis.com/
http://www.corgiforum.com/

This is extraordinarily frustrating and it makes me wonder how many others out there have wanted to start a useful and informative site that gave up because they simply couldn’t register a domain related to what it was they wanted to run a site about.  There are a few Corgi sites out there but the vast majority of them are simply short excerpts with a “Buy my book” link at the end.

At any rate, I’ve got my eye on a domain that’s set to expire here within the next couple of weeks and we’ll see if I can snag it before a bot gets it as it drops off of the registrar.  I’m 99% sure a bot is going to snag the registration the day it becomes available before I even have a chance to check and see if it’s available.  It’s sad that it has come to this.

To close this post on a positive note, here’s a short video of the puppy that has inspired my desire to launch a forum for all breeds of Corgi dogs:

http://welshcorgis.com/
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