Check IP address of your dedicated server in SPAM blacklists before hiring it

Internet 1 Comment »

This is something very few of us do: You hire a hosting service from a hosting company and even though you take notice of many issues like server specs, support, bandwidth etc., you usually don’t even think about the IP address they assign to your brand new server.

Dedicated server IPs are usually assigned in sets of 5 consecutive IP address like 64.20.56.0, 64.20.56.1, 64.20.56.2, 64.20.56.3, 64.20.56.4. These IP addresses are not created for you, they were serving to other servers/domains before you and they might be abused by their previous owners. This sometimes happen if they belong to a spam/warez/hack related site and before the hosting company terminated their account, they might have used the IPs in unacceptable ways and get blacklisted. And sometimes they belong to legitimate sites but they had security breaches which were abused by hackers and IPs are blemished.

Whatever the reason is, if these IPs which you are going to own now is blacklisted in large email networks you will have troubles sending emails from your sites. Most of your emails might be filtered to spam/junk boxes in frequently used email services like hotmail.com and some other emails might be rejected with a bouncing “you are blacklisted” message.

So it is imperative to make an blacklist check before your dedicated server is assigned IPs and ask your host to change them if the IPs they are going to assign are flawed. There are different sites which you can check IPs blacklist status. Some of them are:
http://whatismyipaddress.com/staticpages/index.php/is-my-ip-address-blacklisted
http://www.mxtoolbox.com/blacklists.aspx
http://www.kloth.net/services/dnsbl.php
http://www.email-unlimited.com/tools/check-ip.aspx

So what you should do BEFORE hiring a dedicated server is to ask your host which IP your server will be assigned and then make a check in the sites above and if the IP is blacklisted, ask for another IP before they build the server.

Maxthon (MyIE) 2.0 vs. Firefox

Internet 3 Comments »

I’m a big Maxthon fan. It is my default browser for years. I guess I jumped Maxthon ship in its very early days when it was known as “MyIE”. Due to my profession, I have all browsers installed and use them from time to time to test web applications but when it comes to browsing internet for myself, Maxthon is my only choice as my browser.

It has announced 2.0 version sometime ago and since I was pretty happy with 1.0, I didn’t upgraded for a long time. But then I decided it is time to move on, then for the last few weeks I’m using Maxthon 2.0. Well it is more powerful than ever and I really liked it (once again) 😉

I don’t want to compare it with IE as IE can not be considered as a browser anymore. For me, it is just a “browsing engine” anymore, not a browser to use. 🙂 However firefox definetely deserves to be counted as a browser so I like to compare Maxthon with Firefox to give you an insight:

* Maxthon Uses IE Engine: This means it is prone to IE security breaches but also means it inherits its compatibility. It is upto you to decide whether this is a advantage or disadvantage. 🙂

* Maxthon is much more faster in start up: I don’t mean it is faster in compiling webpages because IMO they are both as fast. However firefox is killing me when I click its icon to start it up. It takes too long to start! 🙁 Maxthon is very fast on this. Actually this is not Firefox’s fault, as Microsoft loads IE engine to memory during Windows start up and since Maxthon uses this engine, its start up time is incredible fast. But Firefox has to load all its .DLL’s and libraries to the memory from the ground so it takes a lot of time for it to initiate. Even if it is not firefox’s fault, I’m the one experiencing this delay as a user so I have my right to dislike it anyway! I suggest firefox devs to develop to caching system which will initiate firefox related libs and dll’s during Windows start up. Until then, Firefox will get a big minus from me.

* Both browsers uses very well designed pluggins to enhance its capabilities. I think firefox pluggins are more than maxthon pluggins and they are also written well. But IMO firefox pluggins are more interfering and is not as fast regarding performance. I don’t like firefox to check for pluggin updates everytime it starts (which is already slow enough!) and I find Maxthon pluggins less inteferring and faster.

* As for configurability, Maxthon is way ahead. It is incredible customizable in every way you can imagine and as a matter of fact this is why I love it. Firefox is also very good in customizations but it is not as good as Maxthon. Just check both browsers options pages and you’ll be amazed by number of configurability option maxthon provides.

Bottomline : I use both browsers but Maxthon is still my favorite.

 

Chat Applications Review : Digichat, Flashchat, Realchat, Parachat

Internet, Vbulletin 8 Comments »

If you have a community, at some point, you consider adding a chat application to your site to increase the interaction between users. Nearly all large web communities have a member chat room. Chat room applications come with different price ranges, hosted solutions and platforms so you have to consider a lot of factors while selecting your chat room solution. A few major issues are:

  • Platform : This means the language application is coded. Chat room applications are written in different languages ranging from PHP to JAVA but I guess you’ll easily notice that all well developed chat solutions uses JAVA platform to give you the most smooth chat experience.
  • Host solution: Some scripts are installed on your server so you need to have your own dedicated server to run them. When you install it to your server you have the advantage of having full control of the application, but this solution also means you’ll be spending your own bandwidth and server power for the chat room. If bandwidth or server power is a bottleneck in your server and your chat room gets crowded you may have problems. On the other hand some chat applications are installed in remote servers and they give you access to your own chat environment which is hosted in their server. In this solution, your server does not spend bandwidth or server power for the chat room.
  • Integration: If you have a community, you’ll also consider integrating your chat room application with your community member database so that whenever a member logins to your site, chat application also knows him and grant him certain access you specified according to his credentials and usergroup. To achieve this goal, you have to select a chat room solution which is capable of integrating with your database.
  • Price: This is of course a concern. There are a lot of scripts which are simply free or very cheap but there are also expensive chat room solutions which can cost as much as $XXXX range.

I’ve worked with many different chat solutions in client boards and in my own communities and I like to give you my comments about a few remarkable ones which you can consider installing to your community based site (especially vbulletin powered).

FLASHCHAT:

Flashchat is a very popular PHP based chat solution. If you patronize small forum communities, I’m sure you have run into that application in one site or another. It is very popular because it is quite cheap (just 5 USD!) and its user interface is pretty charming to end user.

It also have great hacks which integrates it very smoothly with your vbulletin community so many admins who consider to have a chat application, usually starts with FlashChat.

In one my own communities, I also used it for about a year and so and many of my clients still use it in their sites. If you have a small community, it can be a good starting application and I suggest it for admins who do not have large forums.

However IMO, it has a few important disadvantages:

a) It is PHP based, so unlike JAVA based solutions, its chat speed is not so high and smooth. When it comes to chatting, JAVA is the ultimate solution.
b) It puts a high load on the server if ore than a few people enter the chat room. For instance in my server, it couldn’t handle more than 15 people in chat room without taking server load to its tops.
c) 2 years ago a security breach about flashchat is found and it was such a popular script that many exploits have been written to use this breach and many servers which used flashchat have been hacked. Well this can happen to any web application and it has been patched quickly but I don’t blame the script or its author for this but when you use a popular script, its security breaches getting exploited is pretty common so its popularity is also a disadvantage on this aspect.

DIGICHAT: Let’s jump from the cheapest script to most expensive. It has different packages with different features and hosting solutions but the least expensive one starts from $549 so this is the most expensive hosted solution.

I think its charm is its lovely user interface though. It has an awesome design and chatting is very smooth (thanks to its Platform Java). In some more expensive packages it also provides solutions like video chat, voice chat, moderated etc. and it is quite popular chat solution.

If you don’t have budget problems, I can suggest going with digichat as a stand-alone chat solution but frankly speaking it is not my first choice when it comes to integrating it with vbulletin. I don’t find digichat customizable enough in comparison to parachat and realchat when it comes to integration.

REALCHAT: This has been my first suggestion for years for vbulletin communities. A lot of my clients are using it and I like its flexibility to integrate with your member database. But unlike other scripts, it does not come with a remote host solution, so you have to install it your own server (hence have a dedicated server) to use realchat. IMO its user interface is also is not as charming as other chat solutions and in comparison to its price tag, I believe it could be a little more charming. But from developer point of view, I suggest realchat to any large community sites if you don’t have problems running chat application in your own server and can afford it. Its a stable, rock solid, flexible, well supported and customizable chat application.

PARACHAT: I have worked with all of these chat scripts above but didn’t hear about parachat for years. Then one day, when I was looking for a chat solution which is more reasonably priced than digichat and realchat and more powerful than flashchat, I bumped into it and I used it for 1 year in one of my large communities. Well it surprised me and prove to be much better than I expected in the first place.

I find it very flexible when it comes to integration just like realchat so it got a very big plus from my developer side. It has different hosting solutions (remote hosted or dedicated hosted in your own server) and also different packages for different needs and budgets. I used remote hosting of professional package and the service was very stable for the entire year I used it. I haven’t used dedicated hosted solution so I can’t tell anything about its load on the server but as far as I can remember, its license fee was lower than digichat and realchat’s dedicated solutions. It also started to support video / voice chat options but my package didn’t cover them when I used their services so I can’t tell about its quality.

So after this review, let me give you my 2 cents about which solution to use:

* If you have a small community & small budget and your chat room will not be crowded, start your chat experience with flashchat. It is nearly free and will give you everything you need until your chat needs grow.

* When you need a more solid chat room, you can jump to parachat remote hosted solution. You can choose between Advanced or Professional package according to your needs and budget. Since it is remotely hosted, bandwidth, installation, server load or having a dedicated server will not be a concern to you. Your chat room will even work when your site server is down for a reason. I believe parachat will give you everything you need if you own a moderate sized community.

* If your community grows more than that and you need a fully managed, dedicated hosting solution or even a chat server, you can decide between parachat (this time Enterprise package), RealChat or Digichat. If budget and full integration is no concern, you can select digichat which provides the best user interface. But if you need a tighter integration with your community, more flexibility and customization, select between RealChat or Parachat. Both scripts have a free evaluation installation options so I suggest you to install both of them and choose after you and your staff experience them

Comparison of WordPress with Vbulletin

Internet, Vbulletin 1 Comment »

Well being a webdev who compares every webapplication with the beloved vbulletin, I have to compare it to wordpress which I installed in this site too.  Of course their niches are different so this is like comparing apples with bananas but I’ll try to find common grounds from user point of view while comparing.

I developed a few minor modifications for wordpress before but had never used it until today so I can say wordpress is a new world to me (yet). And since I’m a big vbulletin fan, I have to admit that my initial comparison today can be somehow biased and uneducated (on WP part) but I wanted to share my first impressions in the first days of my wordpress experience.

Here is some comments

  • WP installation is a breeze. Vb installation is not hard either but WP is really very well designed from installation point of view especially for newbies. Kudos to WP devs!
  • I’m sorry but I don’t like WP coding. I worked with it before and it is a not a clean coding at all. Nothing can compare to marvelous coding syntax of vbulletin anyway but WP devs still clean the coding a little bit, it is too untidy. But I have to admit vb coding is an exception and nearly all applications are coded in a messy syntax in PHP world so WP is not an exception here. BTW when I say coding is not clean, I don’t mean it is insecure or buggy, I just mean it is not documented very well, has a clean syntax to follow while reading or modifying. So its being clean does not mean anything to its users but it means a lot to developers who need to work with this code.
  • WP is pretty easy to use and learn even for newbies. It is designed greatly in this aspect and no wonder why it became so popular. Unfortunately vbulletin is losing its grip in this field. It is developing so immensely that it is no more easy to use for internet newbies but I guess its market calls for such a progress so I don’t blame it so much. I merely point a fact that vb is no more easy to learn or use for a total newbie anymore.
  • Theme (style) editing and pluggin (product) support are similiar in WP and vb and both are quite good in my opinion.
  • What I didn’t like about WP is its WYSIWYG edit interface. It is much more advanced than WYSIWYG interface of vbulletin by supporting image/media additions and formating etc. but it is too slow in browsers. I understand that these features are important in a blog editing interface but if parsing time would be increased it would be great. I didn’t like waiting a long time whenever I’m typing something in the interface. Although vb interface is not as developed as WP, it is for sure faster. Yet I know that vb edit interface can easily become problematic if you load long formatted text into it. I don’t know what’s the case for WP in longer texts. I couldn’t test it yet.
  • Auto save feature of WP is very nice and vb definetely needs such a tool

When I dug WP more, I may give a more detailed comparison report. For starters I can say that I like WP for now and it is a big kudo for them as I very rarely like a new application especially since I’m too biased to vbulletin. 😉 But well, this is just an initial impression..


 
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