WordPress Yo-Yos – The Final Frontier

WordPress issues

Wow! If you run a forum you need Cloudflare - ...

Wow! If you run a forum you need Cloudflare – it cut my webserver CPU usage in half! (Photo credit: Wayan Vota)

“Have you read my previous post entitled Website yo-yos, LinkedIn limits and newbie copywriting tipsWebsite yo-yos, LinkedIn limits and newbie copywriting tips? If so, you are then familiar with my problems running CouldFlare and WordPress [dot] com together.” Here’s a response I got from the WordPress forum thread I opened at WordPress Forums.

“We can’t really support Cloudflare here, as we only support domain mapping via name servers. We do not have static IP addresses, which makes pointing Cloudflare to your blog (via an A record to an IP address) problematic at best.”

“To explain briefly, we have a growing number of datacenters with thousands of servers between them. WordPress.com is already built on top of a cloud architecture, so when one server goes offline, everything is routed over to another transparently. When your domain is mapped to us by name servers, this all happens automatically.”

“With Cloudflare, you’re directing the domain to one IP. If that server/IP goes offline, so does your site, there’s nothing we can do about that.”

“There’s a bit more involved, but that’s the short version.”

Response to WordPress tech support

$1,000 Prize for the Best CloudFlare App

$1,000 Prize for the Best CloudFlare App (Photo credit: kawanet)

Technically, it is a good answer. But it also raises some questions. I used to run a self-hosted WordPress site for a client. It was hosted at HostGator. For the most part, there was a static ID assigned to the domain name that HostGator hosted. CouldFlare was used for the Name Server. We also used the CloudFlare plug-in and HostGator had the CloudFlare Apache module installed. I can relate to the scenario described by the WordPress support person.

But if the combination of CloudFlare and WordPress [dot] com worked for me for months – why have problems in the past two weeks? Using the laws of logic from philosophy, I can only conclude there are internal software issues at WordPress [dot] com, causing them to switch servers frequently – hence, the different IP addresses.

PR and marketing standpoint

I had to open up an issue on a WordPress [dot] com forum. There is no longer any assess to WordPress [dot] com tech support  for free users (or even paid users who don’t purchase enough products and services). I opened this forum issue up on February 20, 2013. It wasn’t until February 25, 2013, that I got the answer I shared with you.

CloudFlare – on the other hand – was responsive to my support requests within a four hour window. They always opened up a ticket for me, when they discovered an issue. I did not have to open any tickets myself. I talked via email with real support people and got excellent responses.

I would encourage the PR and marketing folks at WordPress [dot] com to teach some lessons to the tech support folks there.

What did I do?

Simple. I had my domain on WordPress [dot] com. I just pointed my name servers there. After all, keeping a website up and working, is more important than running Google Analytics.

After the common propagation period, I will inform CloudFlare to close my account – stating the reasons.

If I were to run WordPress on a hosting company – which I won’t – I would definitely use CloudFlare. But I don’t want to worry about new releases of WordPress, along with WordPress plug-in updates.

What about analytics?

Google Analytics

Image representing Piwik as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Google Analytics is the king of free packages. WordPress [dot] com doesn’t want you to run it. The reason? It has Java Script code they feel could cause security issues. There is a way to use Google Analytics via a service.  Such a  free service exists, where you point an image at No JSS Stats.  I have to test this out more but it appears to be working. To see why this may work, look at The simplest way to track Google Analytics without JavaScript?.

WordPress stat pack

Instead, they have their own analytics package. This package is also offered as a plug-in for self-hosted WordPress sites. But out of a thousand users rating it at WordPress Plug-ins , it got a collective rating of 3.2 out of 5 stars. If I saw a book offered at Amazon with this rating, I probably wouldn’t buy it.

StatCounter

Fortunately, there is a good statistical package called StatCounter. They offer a free version and they do have a non-Java Script solution for WordPress [dot] com blogs at Stat Counter for WordPress [dot] Com. This was operational for me before I implemented the CloudFlare solution. It also was running during the CloudFlare and WordPress [dot] com days. But now I will be looking at the results again, in addition to the WordPress [dot] com statistics.

Piwik

What would I do if I were WordPress and knowing that folks want Google Analytics? Offer them a good substitute. I would host the Piwik open source analytics at Piwik on Wiki and Piwik website. I would then develop a non-Java Script plug-in and make it open source. Allow folks to test it on self-hosted sites. Piwik has non-JavaScript tracking options, as this FAQ points out at Piwik FAQ – non-JavaScript tracking.

WordPress [dot] com could still offer their own statistical package. But offer the Piwik stuff in addition. I used to run Piwik on a self-hosted site. I loved the package. The WordPress plug-ins could always be improved upon and incorporated into WordPress [dot]  com dashboard.

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Star Trek Spam Control = Akismet + Defensio???

Recently I initiated CloudFlare  (CloudFlare) on a client website. The success is overwhelming in stopping bad bods (robots) and other malicious entities.

We also have the plug-in AntiSpam Bee installed, if a bod should evade CloudFlare’s defenses. This plug-in tricks the bod into using a non-existent comment field, as well as doing some other checks.

Image representing Defensio as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

What it doesn’t protect against is human spammers. For this, we have used WordPress Akismet with great success. However, there are concerns expressed by some bloggers, about Akismet engaging in a pricing model.

As an alternative, I’m recently added Defensio. Defensio is free for small businesses. It also is owned and operated by Websense, an international company. They also have the 2.0 version available and a usable WordPress plug-in.

I’ve started used Defensio on my FaceBook account and it has impressed me. Now there are two different views of using Defensio with other Spam plug-ins.

  • Defensio says, “Deactivate Akismet and/or any other anti-spam plugin…”
  • Akismet in there FAQ says, “But if you are investigating alternatives, we recommend checking out Mollom and Defensio, both which integrate with Akismet nicely.”

Well, this is interesting. Unless we look at things like Akismet mentioning it classifies 90% of SPAM comments successfully – which translates as 10% false positives.

Computers at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base are...

Image via Wikipedia So let's add Defensio to Akismet and run some tests.

  • First I hide behind different proxy servers, so neither server bans me via IP address for testing.
  • I set all comments to have an approval process.
  • It’s time to try a good comment. It takes about 3 – 4 minutes to process through the Akismet and Defensio servers. But the comment gets on the pending approval queue.
  • Next I set a spam comment with name viagra-test-123. It first goes through Akismet and gets flagged as SPAM. Then it goes through Defensio and ends up in their SPAM queue.
  • When I went to the comment in the Defensio Spam queue and clicked the history tab, it say: “Akismet caught this comment as spam.”   If I click the details tab, it says “Spaminess: 99%”.  Defensio rated it at 99% for Spaminess.

What about false positives? Now think of the movie critics analogy. If two critics think a movie is bad – guess what – it probably is. Similar logic occurs if they both think a movie is good. When they have a divided opinion, it’s up to a movie goer to make a judgment call.

But a strange thing happened:

I decided to add an entry with swear words.  Akismet approved the comment and Defensio accepted its recommendation.  What?  Defensio has a profanity filter and Akismet should know better.

Next I decided to test each service separately, using the same swear word entries.

  • Akismet classified the comment as SPAM
  • Defensio did the same thing and gave a SPAM rating of 100%

So let’s go back to what both Akismet and Defensio say about working together:

  • Defensio says, “Deactivate Akismet and/or any other anti-spam plugin…”
  • Akismet in there FAQ says, “But if you are investigating alternatives, we recommend checking out Mollom and Defensio, both which integrate with Akismet nicely.”

CloudFlare, Bad Behavior and AntiSpam Bee focus on the automated invaders. Defensio and Akismet can deal with the human element – but not together.  I have to trust Defensio’s judgment on using both your systems. My testing so far has defended this assumption.

The Anti-Spam Barnstar is awarded to users who...

Image via Wikipedia

There’s an interesting article at Fighting comment spam in Rails with Akismet and Defensio. It says:

“In order to test the two services head to head, I’ve put Akismet on the Plexus site and Defensio on another new site we recently rolled out. I’m going to compare the amount of spam each site receives through its comments and see which does a better job of recognizing spam. So far in my tests I have found both to be quite correct.”

Now let’s look at his testing updates:

“UPDATE (5/25/2010):In the month or so since I installed Akismet on this site, I found it had about a 95% success rate. Not bad, but not perfect. Some spam did still slip though. Today I switched to Defensio, and I will report back how that turns out.”

“UPDATE (8/13/2010):I had high hopes for Defensio, but it ended up letting a bit of spam through. I was pretty disappointed at its success rate in the end. Having used both for a while, I would say that Akismet is the more consistently effective solution, although as I noted above it is not perfect. Some spam is still going to get through, but Akismet seems to catch a lot more of it than Defensio.”

There’s also an interesting article weighing the pros and cons of Akismet, Defensio, Bad Behavior and captchas at Captchas, Anti-spam services, and Bad Behavior. The author gets great success using both Bad Behavior and Defensio.

  • I highly endorse reading the article and seeing the author’s pros and cons for Akismet, Defensio, Bad Behavior, Mollom and recaptcha. 

I like to see how the new 2.1.x version of Bad Behavior looks, when it goes live. It will be mostly object orientated code.

Am I the only one testing both these services (i.e. Akismet and Defensio) together?


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End of The Internet

I found this in a forum. Try it and see what happens:

“I just discovered this today and I want to know if its just for me:”

“Type a random internet address then add .ro.ro at the end”

“Example: http://random-site.ro.ro

“How can it happen for every single address??”

“And always in your language/proxies language?”

“LOL”

 

Gold Stars For Motorola, McDonalds; Trader Joes – Vonage Sits In The Corner

Remember this mystery I shared in last week’s blog?

Let me refresh your memory:

Here’s another mystery.  Currently I connect Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Vonage V-Portal -> Computer

  1. If I try to eliminate the Vonage V-Portal for tests, I can’t connect to the Internet via Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Computer, without rebooting the modem
  2. If I perform action #1, then I can’t connect to the Internet via Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Vonage V-Portal -> Computer, without rebooting the Modem, followed by rebooting the Vonage V-portal.

I did contact Motorola technical support and they shared this with me:

“The SB5101 uses a Lease table to assign IP addresses to devices. When the modem is connected to the internet service provider, it only has one IP address to assign: the IP address that the ISP gives you. Once a device connects to the modem and obtains that IP address, the modem associates the two together in its lease table. The modem will keep those two associated for an unknown amount of time even after the device is shut down or disconnected from the modem. When you power cycle the modem, this clears that Lease table and allows any device to obtain that IP address.”

“This method of assigning IP addresses has been addressed in newer versions of the modem’s firmware so that it will dynamically update the lease table for any device without the need of a power cycle. Unfortunately, the ISP controls the firmware, so you cannot upgrade that firmware yourself. The ISP automatically updates the firmware on all modems installed on their network to be sure they match what their systems support. This also includes downgrading firmware to versions that their systems support.”

“The only thing you could do at this point is to either contact your ISP to see if they will update your firmware for you. If they will not, then we’ll have to stick to power cycling the modem each time you switch the connection.”

“Alternatively, you could also purchase a router to connect to the SB5101. That way, the router would handle all the IP Addressing and the modem would only have to recognize the connection to a single device: the router.”

Vonage Lessons learned:

Time to beat up Vonage…to be fair, I’m not anti-Vonage (companies like Lingo probably wouldn’t fair much better) .  This week, I tested talking to the University of South Africa via Vonage – very nice – when 0% packet loss.  I’ll wait a year and see…do they fix their problems?

At least I give Motorola credit.  They knew what the problem was – shared the current status – then confirmed a firmware fix would arrive, in the near future.

Remember my discovery in last week’s blog with Vonage?

OK Vonage – give me an explanation (Or for that matter, any competitors like Lingo can take a stab):

  1. How come when I run tests with http://www.pingtest.net and http://www.voipreview.org, they both show a significant packet loss – at the same time I experience voice degradation via Vonage?
  2. How come every time I recycle your device for 30 seconds – then run tests on with http://www.pingtest.net and http://www.voipreview.org, they both show zero packet loss – at the same time I experience excellent voice quality via Vonage?

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” –  Douglas Adams

Let me share a cool layman’s article on packet loss at http://is.gd/4JhHN, before I discuss my technology discoveries this week.  Another article by the same author at vonage.nmhoy.ne…,  shares an interesting thought: “In my experience, and that of others I’ve seen on the forums, Vonage devices seem to work better when placed behind a more effective router.”  Would this minimize my packet loss concern?  Maybe I’ll test this with inexpensive routers, like those found at netgear.com/Pro… or  amazon.com/Link…?

  1. Vonage tech support says things like, “it could be anything.  It might be the router, the Comcast connection… blah, blah, blah.”  A former Motorola electrical engineer – who has several patent applications over the years…designed and build cell phones…says it’s the Vonage router.   I also contacted a “computer hardware genius”, studying computer engineering technology at DeVry University…says it’s the Vonage router.   Common sense says that if I power down their device…then power back up…where packet loss is non-existent…it’s the Vonage router.   What do you think?
  2. I had a strange problem this week, where I worked with Vonage level 3 support (normally I get level 2).  The level 3 support person spent 4 hours with me, trying to diagnose the problem.  We came away with a mutual respect for each other.
  3. The problem in item 2 was a Comcast issue.  My Motorola Comcast modem is leased by Comcast.  Guess what they did?  They unregistered my modem on their side.  Why?  They mixed my account up with some other account.   Excuse me?  You win the Curly Stooge tech support award.
  4. I mentioned that Google Voice works well with Gizmo5 (see http://www.gizmovoice.com/).  Question: If I took a laptop to Mexico and initiated a call to a US number – would that constitute a free call?
  5. I now have Windows 7 running and I’m impressed.  Office Depot will install Windows 7 free in store – regardless of where you brought it officedepot.com…

Or ask this question of Vonage – What is your definition of “unlimited service?”:

I recall seeing some Vonage TV commercials where they advertised unlimited world service.   Yet if you carefully review their terms of service, they state that 5,000 minutes/month  is what they consider normal, for usage with normal residential plans.  Where did they get this number?  Especially when Skype considers 10,000 minutes/month normal for their unlimited plan?

Or things like they can cancel a 30 day money back guarantee any time – without notice?

Suppose you brought sometime from the Internet.  They offered a 30 day money back guarantee (like Magic Jack does).  You  send the product back after 15 days.  They refuse to refund the money, because they claim they can cancel a 30 day return policy any time.

How would you feel?  Tell me!

This is similar to some Magic Jack complaints I found via Google.  Yet Magic Jack has no excuse –  Vonage does – it’s stated in their “terms of service”.

Or (if I read this correctly), if you don’t cancel within a precise time frame – after one year of service – they can automatically renew you for another year?

What?  Come again?  I feel like I’m an actor in the TV series Star Gate – in order to return to earth, I need to enter the Star Gate within a certain time frame.  Else, I’m stuck on a remote alien outpost for another year.

There’s So Many “Loopholes” in Vonage’s “Terms of Service”, an elephant can squeeze through – Lingo probably wouldn’t fair any better – didn’t  they change their contract length from 1 to 2 years a few months ago?

One good thing I did was to buy another surge protector.  Why?  Plug the Vonage device into surge protector 2.  Plug surge protector 2, the Motorola Cable modem, and other electrical components into surge protector 1.  If I need to reboot the Vonage device, I just use the surge protector’s off/on switch.  I can even boot the modem – followed by the Vonage V-portal – all by using surge protectors’ off/on switches.

McDonald’s Now

I’m not sure if you visited the McDonalds’ headquarters in Oak Brook.  I have several times over the years.   There used to be this former Roman Catholic priest (now deceased), who became a spiritual healer.  Someone in his audience worked at McDonalds, so they were able to hold spiritual healing seminars there.

Someone else I knew had a connection with McDonalds.  There were different presenters of homeopathic medical topics, over the years.  It’s interesting that many medical doctors were audience members.  There’s actually no disconnect between homeopathic medicine and spiritual healing.  I find them to be quite complimentary.  You can ever throw in traditional medicine into the mix and I would see them as potentially fitting together.

Speaking of McDonalds – their coffee is very good!  Let’s not forget the excellent price also!  I know some would rather pay he premium prize for Starbucks.  Or buy these very expensive beans, rather than the excellent Trader  Joe  (a grocery store chain) “Joe” variety.  I’ll tell you what.  I rather invest the money I save, not going to Starbucks.  Let me stick with McDonalds and Trader Joes store blends.

Blog: http://b2b-techcopy.net
Business: http://b2b-techcopy.com

 

Matrix Movie VOIP, Senate GOP Mayhem and Sweat Lodge Deaths

Let’s start with a cool – yet funny –  advertising talk at productreporter….

An Independent Wonders About The GOP

For the record, I’m an independent.  This means I vote for the right person in a particular job – regardless if Republican or Democrat.  Yet lately, I have serious concerns about what the GOP is attempting, blocking passage of unemployment benefits.  A few days ago, WFMT radio news announced that Illinois hit 10.5% unemployment.  Great non-profit website talking about the plight of US unemployed at unemployedworkers….   Perhaps they plan on passing it just before Christmas.  This way, they allow everyone a NICE Christmas present.

Vonage Again

Let me leave an update to my blog article last week. I did reach another good technician at Vonage (it’s the luck of the draw – same as Comcast). We conducted some tests and I replaced the cable, between the modem and V-portal. Pack loss is now minimal, with the testing tools at http://www.voipreview.org and http://www.pingtest.net . The voice quality is good.  Let’s review what Vonage finally recommended:

  1. A firmware update push to their Vonage portal.
  2. I replaced the cables between the V-portal and Motorola Cable Modem, along with the cables from the V-portal to the computer.  The replacement cables were Belkin from Wal-Mart.

I did ask an ex-Motorola electrical engineer on the cables, on what could cause a packet loss.  He mentioned one of two things:

  1. A connection problem with the cable (i.e. – corrosion).
  2. A cable has an improper bend (i.e. – broken wire).

I still  have strong ethical business objections to Vonage locking people into a year’s worth of service.  You do this by imposing a stiff cancellation fee, costing about half a year’s service with you.   This is probably more than twice what both ATT and Comcast charge for cancellation.  This is OK – if and only if this practice is public knowledge.

I have issues with Comcast mentioning to take up my concerns with Comcast management and now following through.

In a way – I’m lucky.  Comcast has their hubs in Elmhurst and Chicago, which is less than 30 miles from me.  I’m also a short hop from a Commonwealth Edison facility.  Remember a few years ago, with all the talk about using the electrical grid to deliver Internet connection?  What became of that?  I would love to have Commonwealth Edison become a competitor to AT&T Uverse or Comcast Cable.

Yet That’s Not The Root Cause

Here’s the thing.  I decided to pray about the situation and  be shown the root cause of my Vonage VOIP packet issue.  Now I can’t say this is the result of prayer, in which God or angels are speaking to me.  It might also be my subconscious speaking.  But I hit upon the answer.

Imagine you were part of the Matrix, as shown in the movie’s namesake.  Imagine that the bad guys with sunglasses were computer geeks.  Imagine that you go to them, every time the Matrix is “not quite right”.  So one software geek wearing sunglasses says it’s a firmware issue.  He upgrades the latest firmware and reboots the Matrix.  The problem resurfaces after a couple days.  The second geek suggests to replace the cable and reboots the Matrix.  Everything is fine.  All your tests show 0% packet loss – for a couple of days.  Then another geek with sunglasses says they need to program the Vonage device.  Then they reboot the Matrix.  The problem is solved, for a couple of days.

See the pattern here folks?

  1. Paint the Matrix device blue and reboot the Matrix.
  2. Put a picture of George Washington on top the Matrix device and reboot the Matrix.

In case you don’t see the pattern, I didn’t call the geek squad with sunglasses, when the problem resurfaced.  Instead I conducted 2 tests.

  1. I first rebooted the modem then the Vonage device.  Everything was running fine and tests showed 0% packet loss.
  2. Next time packet loss resurfaced, I just rebooted the Vonage device. Everything was running fine and tests showed 0% packet loss.  I have now conducted this same test a number of times.

I talked to a ex-Motorola electrical engineer and asked what he thought.  Our suspicions fell upon the Vonage device itself.  Is it cache getting filled up?  Is it a timer issue?  My friend through out some possibilities.  Couple this with the fact that Comcast shows 0% packet loss, remotely pinging to my Motorola Modem.

So the solution is NOT in making a fix within the Matrix, but rebooting the Matrix itself.  I’ll be very upset if this is a known Vonage issue.  Can the V-portal cause packet loss?  Look at the Wiki article at en.wikipedia.or…: “Packet loss can be caused by a number of factors, including signal degradation over the network medium, over saturated network links, corrupted packets rejected in-transit, faulty networking hardware, faulty network drivers or normal routing routines.”

I did follow up with Vonage tech support and shared my findings.  I’ll be conducting more tests.

Cool Tech Trick:

Let me share a cool trick with http://www.pingtest.net and http://www.pingplotter.com.  If you use the Ping Plotter free version, it  combines both a trace route and ping, with a refresh every few minutes.  Just set the URL to the server used by the Ping Test website.  Cool, right?

Another Tech Mystery:

Here’s another mystery.  Currently I connect Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Vonage V-Portal -> Computer

  1. If I try to eliminate the Vonage V-Portal for tests, I can’t connect to the Internet via Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Computer, without rebooting the modem
  2. If I perform action #1, then I can’t connect to the Internet via Comcast -> Motorola Surfboard Surfboard SB5101 Modem – > Vonage V-Portal -> Computer, without rebooting the Modem, followed by rebooting the Vonage V-portal.

Here’s what my electrical engineering friend said:

“If the modem was locked to a defined IP address talking to the Vonage, I would have expected it to restart communication with it, after a reboot.  After all, the modem should know it’s address.  It sounds like the Vonage is dependent on the modem for communication initialization. The modem must not look for other addresses. Interesting that the modem stops talking to all other devices.  I’ll have to mull that one over for a bit.  It sounds like there is a conflict with it, that the modem doesn’t know how to handle. The handshake between the two devices is correctly reset by the recovery reboot sequence you did, starting from the modem then going to the Vonage.”

Note to Myself (for future testing):

Google Voice + Gizmo5  = Magic Jack clone travel kit? (see http://www.gizmovoice.com/).

Arizona Sweat Lodge

Did you hear about the folks conducting a lodge in Arizona, where 3 people died and many got sick?  I talked to a Native American friend who runs lodges about this and he mentioned the Arizona leaders covered the entire lodge in plastic.  Another who knows even a little about lodges – or for that matter, basic science – knows that you would suffocate if you can’t get air.  My friend just covers his lodge with plastic around the base.  What are their leaders thinking?  It indicates two things:

  1. Their leaders don’t know anything about Native American lodge building practices.
  2. Their leaders don’t know anything about basic science (i.e. – physics, chemistry, and biology).

A Twitter Trick

Someone tried to play a trick on me.  I follow people either based upon select targeted keywords, or someone who is following me.  I happened to follow someone who is in the same niche I’m in.  He mentioned we should critic each others work.  Here’s the issue.  He sent me a direct message.  However, he wasn’t following me back.   I couldn’t send him a direct message. If I reply to his message with @XXX, he gets free publicity.  I was not born yesterday.

Randy Kemp

Blog: http://b2b-techcopy.net
Business: http://b2b-techcopy.com