Zerigo price hike and alternative DNS services

Well, this was bound to happen sooner or later – Zerigo was first acquired by 8×8 and then came the price hike. I was signed up for the $19/year Essentials service for up-to twenty domain names. Now, to get similar service i would need to pay $19/month or $228/year.

Although Zerigo is telling us all about the benefits of their improved DNS network, unfortunately it does nothing for those looking for low cost, reliable service. Instead of grandfathering old users, they made the decision to run with the price hike. This means that it’s time to drop Zerigo and move to another low cost DNS provider.

Fortunatelly for us, in the time since 8×8 acquired Zerigo, there are a few new kids on the block doing low cost DNS!

I’ve already moved all of my domain to a completely free DNS hosting by NamesCheap.com

1 - NamesCheap.com - functional, barebones interface with no fancy features. I didn’t find a way to import zone files to simplify the configuration, but that’s not a huge deal since i have less than 20 domains.They even provide a Dynamic DNS update client free of charge – nice touch guys. They remind me of the GoDaddy when it was a new company and the similarity goes further when you look at their low cost domain registrations (lower than GoDaddy). Perhaps I will move buy new domains here in the future.

2 – Sitelutions.com - slightly less convenient, because you have to add a single entry at a time. The layout is fairly clean and all the essential options are present. However, their default TTL is 6 hours on the free accounts. Which is OK for a free service, but is not quite the match for NamesCheap, which allows fairly low TTL of 1800s.

3 – DNSMadeEasy.com - had i not found the two options above, I would have ponied up the $29/year for this low cost, but highly featured DNS service. This is what Zerigo was and should have remained for existing users. If you want premium features, but don’t want to pay Zerigo level prices – do check out DNS Made Easy. They offer clean, intuitive interface, vanity servers, two factor authentication and more.

Please note – none of the links in this post are affiliate links. I’m mentioning these companies only because I’ve personally considered all three and chose one of them to run DNS services for my servers.
Do you know of a great, free or low cost DNS hosting provider? Please let me know in the comments!

Next Kodak’s of the tech world – Seagate & Western Digital

Some are already seeing this, others don’t just yet. But the slow painful death of these two companies and their many brands and subsidiaries has already began a few years ago. These are the last two major companies who’s business is largely dependent on production of traditional hard drives with spinning plates. These drives are more power hungry, bigger, heavier and slower than the new Solid State Drives (SSD).  Despite the fact that many people believe traditional hard drives are here to stay for a long time due to huge advantages in raw capacity (4TB in a single drive is the current biggest consumer drive), it is only a matter of time before ramped up memory production causes a big drop in prices and we see mutli-terrabyte 3.5″ drives based entirely on RAM chips and not spinning plates.

Someone can also make an argument that data recovery from SSD is not possible when it dies, but it is possible when the HDD is dying slowly. That it is true, but it is also just a matter of time before these memory drives will have to banks of ram with a replica of all data. This will increase both – read speed and reliability.

These two companies know the end is coming and are working hard on doing two things – making larger drives in an attempt to outrun SSDs and second – looking at alternative revenues. The problem is that companies such as Samsung and Intel have a huge leg on Seagate and Western Digital. While either one can stamp it’s own label on a drive built on Samsung or Hynix memory chips, none of them manufacture their own chips. If they decide to start making them from scratch – it will cost billions of dollars in R&D and years of time that they don’t really have.

In fact, both Samsung and Intel have started to compete heavily in markets that have been their monopolies in the past. Samsung is making more powerful and less power hungry processors which are now showing up in many devices that would otherwise run on Intel and Intel is making big investments in memory technologies. As some of you know – Samsung has been supplying big companies with ram for tablets, phones, computers and other systems.

Seagate and Western Digital will enjoy a few more years of relatively stable stock prices before “analysts” and “experts” will realize that the technologies of the future have already put a death mark on these two names. And just like the inventor of the digital camera (Kodak) these two companies will be added to the list of HDD manufacturers put out of business by time and progress.

BackpackingLight.com – shooting itself in a foot

BackpackingLight.com is a site I frequent in order to read reports on trail conditions and for some inspiration to get me through the work week. It is a great forum with lots of interesting people who share cool ideas and are friendly to all. However, people who run the site are also your regular hikers and designers, but appears to be novice at operating public sites (despite a rather long presence on the internet). They just can’t seem to figure out what to do about automated spamming bots that leave ads all over the place.

The solution? Only allow the paying members to post…Can anyone think of a quicker way to annoy all the lurkers and people who are not in a position to pay for membership? I’m not a paying member, but not because I can’t afford, but because the premise of a “paid content” is rather silly on the internet, especially when it is not their content they want to charge for (majority of content is provided by non-paying members and the rest if by paying members, but not by the staff). Oh, the BPL did try the whole “pay for content” strategy before, only to find out that people don’t like it and won’t pay for it, which is why they’ve shutdown the shop and let go of the editors. Reviewing products and then charging money for access to them is a no go when all of those reviews and more of them are available elsewhere for free from regular people, who do not have the bias the BPL did (they did sell products under their own brand).

So now all the paying members are also missing out on the content usually added by non-paying members.

So the question is – where did the money go? Or all of those memberships don’t even add up to pay for a web-developer or IT consultant to come in and implement some real anti-spam features or protocols?

If you own Facebook stock – sell now!

Facebook has risen recently on the news of a good last quarter. So the people in the know of the tech industry and tech stocks are advising to sell Facebook (if you have it). This may be one of those rare opportunities to lessen the loss and move into a profitable stock. Facebook is in deep trouble and is a hostage of its own success. While it has the largest user base of any site – the users do not care for any products. And to make money, Facebook needs to sell something to somebody. In the last year, advertisers have been coming in droves to facebook asking for them to take the money (some were offering millions of dollars in campaigns  others thousands). But what they found out is that Facebook wont even talk to them. There was a simple reason for it – Facebook doesn’t know what it can do to make money. Right now all they can do it sell ad space and ask users to pay for promoting their posts. Besides that the only revenue channel is sale of personal data. And while that would bring more revenue than anything else – they will get slapped by the federal regulators quicker than their stock falling after the IPO.

So the only logical step is to make users pay for posts to become visible to their folowers and their friends and sell more ads. Either of the options is toxic and will turn people away from using Facebook. I already see freelancers and small companies spending a lot more time on their own sites and blogs and only putting links on Facebook instead of original content. Facebook is just not delivering. And that was OK while the party was free, but now that Facebook is seeing investor’s puzzled faces in regard to lack of impressive results and beat-up stock prices – it will have no choice but to annoy a big portion of the user base.

Since this is late fall and close to winter – you may do well if you pick up stocks of battered home builders instead. Think Putle, Standard Pacific, and others who have been hammered since 2008 when the housing market collapsed. Those companies are on the rise again with more new home permits and less pressure from foreclosures (cheap homes have been picked up by those who waited out the storm and smart investors). Beginning of spring is tax return seasons and generally a part of the year that makes people want to make big purchases. So many will be looking for new homes and will be ready to buy. Once the spring numbers come in – the stocks of the builders go up as people still try to get on the deal, but those who will buy builders now – will do much better.

Time Machine slow? Try this trick….

My TimeMachine backups on Mac have been running really slow to the NAS. Rebooting, quitting Finder hasn’t helped. After a bit of digging I came up with this tip from someone on Apple user forums – run the following command in the command prompt/terminal: sudo tmdiagnose

After running through diagnostics scripts the TimeMachine backup speed went back to normal (fast)!

Tenkara – Japanese fly fishing technique

I love fishing and have recently found out about Japanese stream fly fishing style called “Tenkara“. Unlike western fly fishing (or other kind of fishing in western world), Tenkara is all about simplicity. Which is why I immidiately loved the concept and thought it would be a great thing to try.

Instead of using fancy gear with reels, multiple hooks, bobbers, etc – all you need it a rod, line and a fly. Line gets attached to the top end of the rod and away you go! The other big benefit of this style is the very low weight of all the gear. Since the rig is very small and basic, and the rod itself is made out of hollow carbon fiber – the total weight of the entire setup can be less than for a single spin-cast reel. There is one company heavily promoting Tenkara fishing in the United States - Tenkara USA. They are one of the local resellers of the gear made in USA and in Asia (all rods are made in China, but some of their other items may come from Japan).

This reminds me of very simple rigs and bamboo fishing poles I used to use when I was a small kid. The amount of fun this provide was immense!

Furtheremore, modern Tenkara gear, while simple, is very advanced. Instead of bamboo rods most use carbon fiber ones. Instead of horse hair braided or furled line, you can use monofilament.

As already noted, Tenkara USA is the most prominent reseller of the gear in North America. However, there are other small shops and independent sellers who are dealing in Tenkara rods, lines and acessories.

One of the decent recources on the topic is TenkaraBum with reviews of rods by different brands, some rods for sale and other useful information.

Another great place to check out is Tenkara Fly Fishing – the reseller of rods branded under Fountainhead name. This little shop provides great low cost options for those willing to try out Tenkara style fishing without investing into more expensive rods. Their $80 Carbon Fly Stone 360 is a great choice. One downside is that they don’t sell spare parts. A broken rod must be shipped back for repair.

At this time – I’m looking to import Tenkara directly from manufacturer in China, which should prove economical and comparable in price to Tenkara Fly Fishing, but will also provide spare parts, accessories and a few more rod choices.

DPreview – critics don’t like being critiqued

This is a rather funny one in my opinion: DPreview ( a well known camera review site and forum (don’t confuse with photography sites)) which rates the cameras has issues with being on the receiving end of the equation. DPreview is supposed to be unbiased and fair, but if you have spent the time there – you will know that they are down on interesting material and are heavily bombarding visitors with ads. Not only that, but they also do a lot of these small “Reviews” all the time about books, products, courses, gadgets, etc. The word “Reviews” is in parenthesis because they are not really reviews -they are “plugs”, ads and commercials. These “reviews” contain links to affiliates from whom DPreview makes money when people click and buy the items. But that’s alright – everyone does it and they are no better than the glossy magazines in this respect.  This is a brief back story on the site itself.

So, today DPreview announced about their new venture – Connect.dpreview.com. A copy and mashup of flikr, facebook, pinterest, instagram and other million so called “social” sites and networks. And again – the place if full of ads and articles that are nothing more than advertisements for products. There is no real photography on “Connect”.

So i posted a comment about the quality of DPreview main site suffering at expense of them trying to launch this side project in search of more revenue. And point out that the original positives of DPreview (quick camera reviews, latest news and rumors, serious critique of the gear and manufacturers) has vanished in favor of 500 word advertisements. 10 minutes after I post the comment – it has been deleted by DPreview. I guess they are OK with reviewing and critiqueing others, but don’t think the same criteria applies to them. Too bad…

Here is the screenshot of the original comment (two of them actually), which got deleted:

Simon Joinson is a liar

Update 1: Posted the screenshot above in the DPreview forum asking the public what they thought on this matter (Screenshot below)…This thread was also deleted in 10 minutes. I guess DPreview really doesn’t like criticism and doesn’t want to be judged in the court of public opinion (probably because it won’t be in their favor on this one). Continue reading

Listening to Lana Del Rey

I listen to Pandora like many others and I do it for the same two reasons everyone else does: Because they have your favorite tracks AND because they often suggest tracks and singer who you are likely to like.

Exactly this way I’ve found out about Lana Del Rey ( YouTube – Lana Del Rey ) – what an interesting singer songwriter! It is rare to find someone different and gifted (to all of the critics who may want to voice their objections – thank you, I have my own opinion of her performances). Of course there are Adels, etc, but Lana has not really “exploded” the same way Adele did. Yes, her voice may not be as strong, but the whole package of the albums – style, lyrics, voice, arrangements and her vision (you have to see the music video’s, don’t just listen to her) – it is refreshing. Of course the Americana style she has enveloped herself into is just part of the reason behind the popularity along with unconventional performance style. The lyrics of her songs (many, but not all) is also on different level when compared to her peers on stage and in the spotlight. She reminds me a lot of Cat Power – equally powerful in lyrics and dark thoughts, but different.

P.S. – yes, I have seen the SNL show where she appeared and many found to be anything but great. But guess what – I would rather see her stumble and produce something not to my own taste as long as it is original and less synthetic than what is being produced by others today (“produced” in an industrial sense where singers are made to order to satisfy the latest trend of population)

I can’t get enough of her songs right now – simply mesmerizing!


Hasselblad defends Lunar and gets into more trouble

Hasselblad defends Lunar’s concept and pricing – British Journal of Photography.

In the article above Hasselblad, who just bought a barebones Nex 7 skeleton (all internals, but no outer shell), says that they are not re-branding an already excellent camera, but making a new product. This is despite the fact they Hasselblad admited they are not making any changes to the processor or internal workings of the camera. What they are doing is replacing high-grade aluminum knobs with titanium (like anyone is likely to wear out aluminum before electronics or plastic parts fail), reshaping the grip and layering it with carbon fiber, leather, imitation leather, replacing a few plastic parts with aluminum.

After these changes to a $1000 camera, Haselblad plans on charging €5,000 or $6,500.  Their argument is that they took the best sensor and body and replaced some of the components with higher quality grade. As the article lays out – it costs €300 to machine a single aluminum frame where the itnernals will be fitted and only 3-4 can be made in a day. What a lie! One of our clients is a machining shop. They are small by standards of international trade, but produce high end, very close tolerance parts for airplanes and optical equipment. They can machine these frames in a fully automatic mode where no humans are involved from start to finish of the process and do it at at 15-20 parts per day. So what that tells me is that Haselblad is doing at least one thing – machining the parts on a single mutli-axis mill or are doing it on many 1-2 axis mills. Furthermore, they are probably outsourcing this process to a third party, which only increases the cost of the production.

Haselblad made a major mistake here. Instead of taking an APC-S sensor and internals from Sony Nex 7 and making a fancy metal body with carbon fiber and leather inlays in the grip, they should have taken the full frame sensor from Sony RX1 and have put it into a larger body with more dedicated controls. That would make an outstanding addition to Haselblad line up.

Their last argument that Haselblad doesn’t charge anything extra on top of what it would do normally in their own manufacturing process. No big markup in the $1,000 camera sold for $6,400 after rebranding. They are making “same markup” as others, but are using higher grade materials. Not true. Haselblad didn’t put in nearly as much time in designing a camera from the ground up, so charging “same” isn’t really fare here. They didn’t need to bring the entire electronics system from design stage (which is not cheap even on its own) to the production, testing and refining.  So if Sony is making $400 on a $1,000 that is OK, since it was a lot of work to make a completley new product with a sensor that was never used in such a body before. But taking an existing product and changing outer shell and then charging $1,000 on top after expenses is not cool.

(UPDATED) Our experience with AT&T or why you should never use them (EPIC FAIL)

We are in the process of setting up a new professional office in a typical business building in San Diego. We’ve got the office and I’ve started calling companies that provide internet service in the area. I’ve called Cox who told me the office was in an area services by Time Warnet. So I’ve called Time Warner for their cable service only to hear that they can only get me a T1 or Fiber and the lowest price is $400 a month.

I knew that people in the building were not paying $400/month because many of the offices around cost $600/month to rent. It just so happens that an accountant across the hallway from us (who I’ve visited to inquire about their connectivity) had AT&T DSL!

So I got on the phone with AT&T and asked about getting a DSL in our office. To my surprise they said they don’t provide internet services at this address (first time). Despite me repeating the address and them checking multiple times in their system – they kept on telling me that internet is not available. Despite the fact that the office across the hall had AT&T DSL up and running as we spoke. I ended that converation and called AT&T again (same number) but got a different person. After checking the address – they told me the same thing – no internet (second time). After about 5 minutes on the phone with me trying to tell them they are servicing people in the building already . The final word was – no they don’t have anything they can offer us, but we should call one of their “local representatives”. I’ve called and e-mailed the rep who checked some other system and told me the same thing – no services and that we should try contacting Time Warner (third time).

So I’ve called AT&T again and after 4-th conversation with them they told me that they can provide us with AT&T U-verse at the office address (which is technically a DSL, but rep kept on insisting it wasnt. I guess it is all pigeons and pixie dust then) . I had to ask them to repeat what they said as i couldn’t believe my own ears.

We were told $30/month for first three months and then it will be $40 (for 12Mbit down), but we did have to buy their U-verse modem.Installation was scheduled for Tuesday of next week between 11am and 1pm. Before Tuesday, we went into MPOE in the building and had a new CAT5e line pulled form MPOE  through underground conduit into the office space to ensure that the tech won’t tell us that there is no connectivity to our space.

On Tuesday, wife is a the office at 11am waiting for AT&T. At 1pm she calls me and I call AT&T who tells me they were never scheduled for 11am-1pm, but are scheduled for 1pm-3pm. And no – we didn’t make a mistake, we wrote down what AT&T said while they were on the speakerphone – so one of us would have caught the error. So she is waiting until 3pm – still no one. We call AT&T and they tel us the guy is running late. Now wouldn’t we want to know that? At this point I’m getting very angry trying to deal with these completely unprofessional people. Considering how big the company is – they have no idea how to run a company.

At 3:40 the installer shows up and until 5pm he is trying different wire pairs because the signal is too weak. At 5pm he gives up and says that he will get a line technician to come out and fix the line from AT&T to the box outside of the building and then he will come back next day to finish it up between 3 and 5pm.

On Wednesday my wife gets to the office to find out that the line is up, but it is running at 0.25Mbit vs promised 12Mbit and the pages won’t load. A DSL modem provided by AT&T is a Motorola NVG510, which are know to have problems with DNS and inability to enter Bridged mode. At 4pm she calls them to find out that the last guy has never scheduled himself or anyone else to come back, but only made a note that someone will need to do it. Another hour on the phone with AT&T after getting transferred and put on hold many times and AT&T is telling us that someone will come out tomorrow between 1 and 3pm.

Now, even though we don’t have a properly working internet yet – they have already sent a bill to us, which says that the line costs $120 a month and not $40! And that there is a $90 promotional discount being applied for now, but it may go away. What?!?!?!

Tomorrow we need to call to clear up the issue with the bill and hopefully the tech will be able to resolve the problem with the line.

In my 14 year history in IT (information technology for the uninitiated) I have never dealt with less professional and competent company. AT&T simple takes the cake of the worst company we have ever had experience with.

UPDATE – 10.02.2012

We gave up on AT&T last week and called TimeWarner for their more expensive and slower cable service. Yesterday TimeWarener came out to “survey” the space and did full install in about 30 minutes after finding out that their break-out box was in the secondary MPOE adjacent to our office space.  We are now up and running in the office with a solid, stable connection.

Here is the kicker – while i’m outside the building talking to the installer – I see these two big AT&T trucks with a huge wooden cable spool. Appears they have just fished out a fiber connection out of the manhole up the street and were terminating it at the box outside the building. Go figure…