Welcome to the 20th Year of Misangela.com!!

That’s right, folks, my blog turns 20 this year – June 21 to be exact! Can you believe it? My first post is about gender bias and it is still, sadly, relevant today.

This blog being a Gemini makes sense since I’ve ranted and raved and blabbed my business on the ‘net for TWENTY YEARS! Geminis are chatty, you know. ;) I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to, thanks to fucking Facebook and all the other social media outlets that keep me busy. I used to blog about daily stuff, news, etc., all the things that social media does for the masses now. Despite FB ruining true blogging, I still feel that blogs are relevant and should not be tossed out as outmoded. Same for websites. Again, thanks to FB dumbing down the collective IQ of the internet, people don’t even have sites for their businesses half the time. THAT is a mistake, but they really think that FB is the internet.

This past year was about transition and we’re still in it. I wonder if I’ll be a pub owner or going through bankruptcy on June 21 this year? Interesting to see what happens. I truly hope it will be the former and not the latter, but odds are pretty even right now.

I’ve not said much about the pub process, mainly because I can whine on FB and secondly because I just don’t have the brain power to write coherently right now. I tell you, though, once the outcome has been determined, I’ll be writing a fucking book about this process. It is yet to be seen if it will be a cautionary tale or a tale of victory.

Hopefully VICTORY. QaPla’!

Responsive Design

Ugh. Two words I hate the most. YES I KNOW this site is not responsive. You know why? Because I don’t WANT it to be. Yes you have to zoom in on your phone. I really don’t care. This site looks the same on every device and I like it that way.

I detest it when I go to a site in a browser (on my Mac) and get the mobile experience. SO MANY companies do this. Even the taqueria site does this because the template sucks. But it was a massive job to beat that template into submission, so I leave it. I detest a site with infinite scroll (at least the taqueria template doesn’t do that). That seems to be the ultimate goal in “responsive” design: infinite scroll. I HATE IT. I will NOT comply. It is shit design and I won’t do it. (And: get off my lawn ya whippersnappers!)

I’m just waiting for the web design standards to shift again and leave the infinite scroll and hamburger menu (those ubiquitous three lines stacked like a burger that reveal the menu when clicked) crap behind. You should NEVER EVER see a hamburger menu when surfing on a computer. NEVER. It is a specific design tic for phones and has no place in a full fledged computer browser. Yet I see it often. GROSS.

You should NOT see two different sites when you surf there via phone or computer, IMO. Nor should you see a mobile site with infinite scroll and hamburger menus when on a computer. The site should look MOSTLY the same no matter what you use to view it, but most sites do not. Which is why this site will continue to be as it is for the foreseeable future. I just don’t have the time to tear it down and start from scratch. The Atahualpa theme was updated (half assedly, the theme is mostly dead) to be more “responsive”, but to install it, you have to pretty much start from scratch and/or rewrite half the CSS by hand. NOPE. I just hope the damn theme keeps working with WP updates. ::fingers crossed::

So, you’ll just have to deal with zooming in on your phones to read my site. I do not care. I am happy with the layout and the content prints beautifully (recipe printing), which are my main concerns. I’ll redo it one of these days, but probably not for a while. So, thanks for enduring the horror of a non responsive site for me. LOL Of course I know that most of you just read this on FB anyway, so whatever. Enjoy!

Bot Attacks and Slacker Hosts

First off, let’s be clear: ALL HOSTS ARE SLACKERS. To some extent, anyway. They promise to help you defend your site(s) against hacking and bots, but they never, EVER do. We left Zweeko because their servers couldn’t reboot and our sites would be down for hours at a time – and they would just say “no worries!”. Yeah. We moved to Siteground, which has been a huge improvement, but they offer no more support or ACTUAL help than Zweeko did. But at least with Siteground the sites crash and are rebooted in minutes rather than hours.

If you have old sites with URLs that have been in service for 20 years like ours, you WILL be a target for bots and hackers. If your site performance is never good and your host shrugs their shoulders, it’s probably bot attacks that are slowing things down.

So, we put up with constant outages for about a year. We’d ask for help and Siteground would just offer the same old bullshit answers: Tweak your robots.txt file! Write a special root file that will block bots! Don’t use WordPress! DO use WordPress! Upgrade your account! (That last one is a standard. Better to sell more services than actually FIX a client’s problems!)

They never once recommended a plugin that might help. NEVER. And Siteground actually says in their marketing: “We eat WordPress for breakfast!” I beg to differ.

Anyway, the point is, never expect a host to do anything more than take your money and try to take MORE of your money.

And another thing to never rely on your web host for: your EMAIL. Just don’t. Use Gmail. What we do is set up email addresses with our URLs then forward them to a Gmail account. That way, there is spam filtering and you have far more control of your email. These days, NO ONE looks at your email account – other than to judge you for using AOL, Yahoo or the other old ass crappy ones. Heh. I’ve got many email accounts and I’ve never had anyone even realise it when I accidentally use a different one on a reply. We skipped using host email all together with Player One; its email is playeroneatl at gmail dot com. MUCH simpler. Also, when you change hosts (and you will), your email will still work since it is independent of your URL. Same thing goes for registering your URL. Use a separate registrar (I use namecheap.com) from your host. That way your domain registration doesn’t have to be moved when you change hosts (and you will change hosts). Protips, people! Protips!

We struggled with bot attacks for years, but I think we’ve finally found a plugin that actually helps: StopBadBots. We installed in across all our WP sites and have had only a one or two outages in a month, which is amazing. I also installed Blackhole for Bots, but that one requires some robots.txt file fiddling, so it’s not plug and play like StopBadBots is. I highly recommend StopBadBots.

I also had an issue with email enquiry form spam, so I configured the plugin (Contact Form 7 by Miyoshi) to work with Akismet Anti Spam plugin (standalone from Jetpack), which seems to work quite well.

If you don’t already, go NOW and turn on Askismet for comment spam and Jetpack (Askismet is included in JetPack, but we also use the standalone plugin) for WordPress. Make sure to configure JetPack’s settings to turn ON “Brute force protection” and turn OFF “login with any wordpress account”. Always check your settings for any plugin you use with WP.

Then go get Wordfence. This plugin is very thorough and really helps with bots that try to log into your WP site. You’ll need to get an API key and you’ll need to take some time to configure all the sections, but it is REALLY worth it. The plugin will tell you how to get the API key and they offer lots of documentation. I will advise that you tweak the Rate Limiting Rules pretty tightly. GET WORDFENCE!

Also install Heartbleed Control plugin, to stop the heartbleed exploit, which will run up site hits.

If hosts would actually offer decent WP support, I don’t think WP would be such a pain in the ass. WHY they won’t simply suggest a plugin rather than all the bullshit über complicated rewrite crap is beyond me. But *I* will recommend what is working for us.

As with all things technical, things evolve, so this info is not forever, but for right now, August 2017, these things are working. Hopefully they will continue to work for the foreseeable future! And I hope that they might help others who struggle with site performance issues while running WordPress!

Hosting Company Reviews

Since we have so many sites (9 as of 2017), we need Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting. We’ve had reseller accounts which make every site a separate account and we’ve had standard VPS. I tend to prefer just standard VPS because you can admin all the sites from one control panel. I’ve written about our experiences with these hosts, but I decided to condense our experiences into one post for Google and for my reference.

HERE is the current list of EIG hosts to AVOID. Trust me. AVOID.

We’ve had VPS type hosting for a decade+ and we’ve had several hosts. First, let me give you my opinion on the hosts we’ve had; their pricing, their uptime and their support. Those are the three main factors that everyone looks at when trying to find a decent host. Nowadays, things like SSL certificates and ddos attack prevention also factors in. I’m just going to review the last three hosts we’ve had: InMotion Hosting, Wiredtree Hosting and Zweeko Hosting. We are now on Siteground. I am not linking to these hosts, because I don’t want to hear any whining from them about my negative reviews.

InMotion Hosting (inmotionhosting.com)
We were with this host about 4-5 years ago. They were fairly new at the time and things started off great, as they always do when a host is new and hustling for clients. We had a reseller VPS account that was around $50/mo. The first coupla years was good, when I called I got the owners on the phone and they helped me with lots of technical stuff. As they grew, they had a handful of support people who were trained and did a good job. But somewhere around the 3-4yr mark, they started buying other companies and expanding, but they didn’t expand the tech support team. Then they started hiring support staff that wasn’t trained. The support degenerated into the usual bullshit excuses when our sites were down: it’s WordPress, it’s not enough RAM, it’s Bigfoot, etc. What was happening was our sites were getting ddos attacks and it was killing the server. Things kept escalating until our sites were hacked and the support people had NO IDEA what to do. They actually blamed us for the attacks and tried to tell us that there was nothing they could do to fix the SERVER HACKS. Uh, isn’t that the definition of a host’s JOB? I don’t recommend IMH if you need good support. We started looking for a new host and ended up with the next one.

WiredTree Hosting (wiredtree.com)
We were with WiredTree for about three years. They were very solicitous and moved all our sites from InMotion for free – even tho they usually charge for that many sites. We had about 15 sites at the time. We had a reseller account with these guys and it was about $60/mo. The biggest issue with WiredTree support is that they really loved to use geekspeak when answering tickets, which is annoying when a) you are not a server geek and b) you just want a straight answer in ENGLISH. Their service was actually pretty good, it was the support that was annoying. They also had a habit of fixing things, but never telling me what the problem was in the first place. I want to know what is going on, but I don’t need to know how to build a watch when I ask for the time. They did not have the ability to tell me what an issue was in non-geek terms. They also charged out the ass for an SSL Certificate, which I was interested in putting on our sites, but did not due to their exorbitant fees.

Towards the end of our tenure there, our sites were again suffering with ddos attacks that would bring down the server. They did nothing about these attacks. They didn’t even offer or use Cloudflare, which is pretty standard these days. They blamed us for the attacks, with the usual excuses: it was WordPress, it was not enough RAM, it was Bigfoot, etc. They talked me into an upgrade to SSD ($65/mo) and they SWORE that would do the trick, but alas, it was just their lack of giving a shit that was the issue. Much arguing ensued and they didn’t even refund the last month that I paid for and didn’t use. I felt swindled by WiredTree and I don’t recommend them. I was bitching about WT on Twitter, looking for a new host and that’s when the owner of Zweeko offered to move all my sites for free to his center in London. He was a sweet talker and convinced me that he’d take care of us. Beware a strong sales pitch…

UPDATE 1.31.17: WiredTree has been acquired by LiquidWeb. Don’t waste your time with it.

Zweeko Hosting (zweeko.com)
So Feb 2015, we moved to the brand new company Zweeko in London. They moved all the sites and put me on a standard VPS (not reseller, which is what I prefer) and all was good. They are $70/mo. They have us on SSD servers, nicely tricked out, and they use Cloudflare for all sites at the enterprise level. They also offer SSL Certificates for $18/yr, which is a very good price (NOT as of 2017. Now good hosts offer free SSL.). Unfortunately, despite the nice hardware, it wasn’t long before the outages began. As early as two months after we moved to Zweeko, we had server issues. At this early time, the owner was always on Twitter and he’d get things up again right away. But that, of course didn’t last. He got some tech people to run the place and he was off to travel around the world hustling big businesses to host. When he left the asylum to the inmates, support became nonexistent.

The outages started to become regular, about once a month the sites would be down for a couple of hours. Apparently they have no monitoring software at Zweeko, since they never knew when our server was down. Rather than fix the issues which were ALL on their side, all they could figure out to do was restart the server. Nothing was getting fixed, they would just restart.

One time, they insisted it was my WordPress configuration (WP is the whipping boy for hosts across the land!) and they went into my WP and fiddled with the plugins to make my site work. This is NO BUENO. They also could not tell me what they did, I had to go in and ferret out their stupid plugins, which I removed immediately with no discernible detriment, proving that they had no business in my WP install in the first place.

The latest incident was a couple of months ago. Our sites were down for NINE HOURS on a Sunday and they did NOTHING about it. Absolutely NOTHING. I put in a ticket and the B team support people apparently didn’t know what to do, so they just left our server down for the A team to fix on Monday. THEY JUST LEFT IT DOWN. I was apoplectic with rage and demanded to know why our sites were left down despite a ticket. Of course, they had nothing to say. Apparently the support people at Zweeko are not trained well enough to THINK and actually solve problems. All they know to do is what is written on their support software screen and if it’s not there they are like “WHATEVER!”. I was given a little reimbursement for the downtime, but NEVER got reimbursement for any of the myriad other times THEIR server failed.

For these reasons, I do NOT recommend Zweeko. They are pricey and they do not have strong support.

UPDATE 11.25.16: The owner of Zweeko is bugging me to take down this post. I will not. It is an accurate depiction of my experience at Zweeko. Since the outage in July, they have straightened up and given me the credit I demanded. We’ve had no big issues since July. There have been a couple of hiccups, but overall, the service has been OK. It’s still pricey, but it’s solid for now. I don’t recommend them if you have lots of sites or are not very well versed in web server issues, however. Their support team is still weak and they will do things without explanation.

THE END 1.30.17: The owner of Zweeko began to troll my personal FB page and started bugging me (see above). Twice in the last 2-3 months, we’ve not been able to get into CPanel due to Licensing issue errors. This tells me that they are either not paying their fees or they are overusing the licenses. The server has also been slow, which is the usual log problems that they’ve never, in over a year, fixed. So I called out the owner for trolling my FB (where I was looking for a new host and discussing the SHIT service I’d gotten at Zweeko) and he then pitched a fit like a small child and threatened to delete my sites – he gave me 72 hours to move. And then he sent another yammering email calling me a horrible person because I called him an asshole… Well, if the shoe fits! Fortunately for us, I’d already begun prep to move to our new host: Siteground.

Siteground (siteground.com) 1.30.17
I’ve got two clients on Siteground already, so I’ve been monitoring what’s up. No issues whatsoever. They have CHAT support like a grownup company and their support people are trained. I’ve never had a bad experience with these guys. They are in Bulgaria, but don’t let that put you off. Their English is perfect and they TAKE THEIR TIME with you. I was on chat for 45 minutes with one of their guys discussing the move and deciding which service to use. EXEMPLARY support.

I’ll update this as we get into Siteground, but I can tell you so far: everything is peachy. We are on the $80/mo VPS system. We did have to pay to have our sites moved, but whatever. They all work and everything is great. So far, so good.

Other Hosts To Avoid
One of my clients was using Bluehost for their WP site. They’ve been there about a year. The database blew up and WP was unusable, so I contacted support. After much back and forth, they finally admitted that the server was having issues and it would be fixed. But of course, they would not tell me WHEN. So this went on for a few days and they continued to lie, blame WP and put me off, meanwhile the site was up, but WP was hammered. Bluehost is a flaming piece of shit. DO NOT USE THEM. At this point, I started doing research for a new host, both for my client and for myself.

I asked the hive mind of Twitter to give me host recommendations and I got a couple of lame ones. Then this company Webhosting Ninja (www.webhosting.ninja and @ninja_hosting) said I should check them out, so I did. I did not like their plans, so I said “thanks, but no”. Then they started attacking me, assuming that *I* used Bluehost (my CLIENT does) and told me I was an idiot for not switching to them. Ninja Hosting is clearly run by a bunch of misogynistic nerd hey-bras and I DO NOT RECOMMEND THEM.

Sources for Host Reviews
But I found @HostReviewHell (www.reviewhell.com) during this, so it was worth it. This site has tons of useful info! I especially like the list of EIG hosts to AVOID (Bluehost is one).

I found Siteground (https://www.siteground.com/) on this site and I decided to try them out with my client’s WP site. So far, so good. Siteground is out of Eastern Europe (you can choose your server location, I chose Chicago), but they seem to have their shit together. They offer chat, email and phone support (I love chat support!) and it’s always manned from what I can tell. They moved my client’s site with no issues and we were up and running the next day. (Proving that it WAS Bluehost’s fucked up server that hammered WP, NOT US.) We’ve been with Siteground for a few weeks and I’ve no complaints. They offer Cloudflare with all packages and they use CPanel (a MUST).

UPDATE 11.26.16
I have put two clients on Siteground and had complete success. The first install was better than the second, but overall, I’m pleased. They have very fast CHAT support (thank the gods) and despite this being an Eastern European company, all the employees seem to be fluent in English. Siteground will be my goto if Zweeko drops the ball again like they did a few months ago. Done and done! LOL