Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Web Application and Hosting Woes

It's Tuesday, but it feels a lot like a Monday.  Today marks the first day back in the office in 10 days – that's right TEN days.  Count them 10 wonderful days of not being at work!  Can you tell that I was a little happy to be not at work?  My attendance at NECC in Philadelphia provided me with the great opportunity to re-charge my batteries, and get excited about computers and all of the great things that they can do for us.  I had ten glorious days to eat great food, read, learn, and see some of the great new things that technology has to offer us.  Now that I am done gloating about my fantastic ten days off, I will get to the meat of this post.  Please forgive if this comes off as a rant, I will try so very hard to keep it nice, but I am also at the end of the patience line with my hosting company.

Today marked the first official day of my father's podcast titled FinCast.  Yes, it appears that the tech geeks in my house have some attraction to names that begin or end with Fin.  Anyhow, you can go visit my Dad's blog at http://rfin.blogspot.com.  What I am more exited to show you is his RSS feed which can be seen at http://www.codefin.net/podcasts/rss/users/rfin/rfinRSS.xml.  Sorry for the verbose links, it is the only way I can do it when posting from email.  I must share because I am so very proud of my achievement.  Yes it is just a simple xml file, but I wrote the code that created it.  Not only that, but it has this fantastic database behind it that makes certain tasks with regard to managing your podcasts very easy.  For example, suppose you want to change or delete a pod cast for some reason.  That isn't a problem, with my application you can see a listing of all your podcasts, edit or delete as you choose, even upload replacements, all the while making sure that your RSS feed is up to date.

There are three things that please me most about this web application. 

  1. It's mine – I wrote it with my own fingers and brain.
  2. It wasn't an assignment, I chose to do it, and I did it.
  3. It does something practical and useful that many people can't do for themselves.

The there are a lot of other things that I like about it as well.  For example, it has given me the opportunity to get more comfortable with SQL, HTTP sessions, HTTP upload, PHP as a programming language, program flow and control in an interpreted OO language, it is providing me with experience in writing, testing, and maintaining a code project, AND there are still a bunch of features that I can implement into the application making it more useful to a user and providing me with the opportunity to learn how to do more fun stuff.

This project isn't going to become anything big like any of these super web apps that I know, but I am having a lot of fun with it, and if I can create something that my father and I use then great!  If some friends want to try it out, and it fills a need that they have, that's cool too.  Oh, and another thing this little project lets me do is check a goal off of my list for this year.  I wanted to write a "real" program that does something.  While I didn't get to do it in .NET or Java, and it isn't a rich client, it certainly is a start.  Maybe in the future I can explore web services and do that too.  Talk about overkill for a small project, but it does give me a springboard to jump off of.

Now for the rant:
My web-host www.ipowerweb.com, has some great advantages.  Lots of space, what I find to be a great admin control panel, generally reasonable technical support people, low downtime (I don't think that codefin.net has ever been down) and it comes at a pretty cheap price ($7.00/month if you sign up a year at a time).  I am now finding that it has some disadvantages.  They claim that they support CGI and PHP, boasting that you can make your own web applications and host them off of your site.  Indeed, they do have the PHP parser on their server; however, it is in its default, out of the box configuration.  You may wonder why this would be a problem.  Two variables: upload_max_filesize, post_max_filesize.  Yes, those two variables in the PHP parser have completely ruined my faith in my current host.  Those variables control what you can upload to your server through any PHP script, and as a default they are set to 8M and 2M respectively.  Basically this means that the wonderful web application that I was describing above can't do GARBAGE as a podcast manager unless a sysadmin chooses to change those variables, or I find a new host where those variables can be set to something reasonable.  My host tells me that they would be happy to give me a server where I can change those variables to my heart's content for $65.00/month.  Do those two variables really make the difference between being in a shared-hosting/dedicated server situation?  If it does, would any kind readers take to helping me understand why?  If you don't know, but do know of a hosting company that will let those variables be set at reasonable levels (say 30M) then please drop me a line.  Until then, my little application is going to have to stay very little, as I can only upload files smaller than 2 megabytes.

Well folks, that does it for today.  Thanks for listening!

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