Blog Splash

Changing the Hosting Provider

by Kerido Monday, April 26, 2010 4:22 PM

We're currently in the process of moving to new hosting – a decision we've been lingering on for quite a while, but finally... well, we are fed up with our current provider, 1and1.

For a long time this website has been hosted using 1and1's shared hosting plan called MS Business Package. We purchased it back in 2006, but since then not only hasn't the service improved, but it actually got much, much worse! So I would like name at least four reasons why no one should purchase shared Windows hosting from 1and1.

Substandard Domain Setup

The good thing about 1and1 is that they allow three top level domains with their shared hosting packages for free. They also claim that you can have an unlimited number of sub-domains.

That's the end of the good news, because if you want to set up individual ASP.NET web sites on either top level domains or sub-domains, you can only define up to five. No matter how many total domains you will create, you can only have up to 5 individual ASP.NET Web applications per hosting package!

In a typical scenario where you would want to map each domain to a corresponding directory inside your hosting space, chances are that most of your domains/sub-domains can only be used for serving static content (HTML, CSS, graphics) or plain old ASP.

Outdated Technologies

It's the year 2010 now; however 1and1 still don't provide ASP.NET AJAX with their hosting packages. You are only limited to using ASP.NET version 2.0. While many hosting providers are readily offering ASP.NET 4.0, 1and1 is almost five years late!

Since you are only limited to the .NET Framework version 2.0, there is quite a bunch of other fun features that you won't have access to: LINQ, ASP.NET MVC, WCF, and many others. And of course, you'll have to write more code to achieve similar functionality.

Extremely Frequent Outages

1and1 claim "99.9% uptime". Well, this is pure flam. 99.9% uptime amounts to 365 x 24 / 1000 = 8.76 hours of downtime per year. In one of my previous posts I wrote about a tool that we made in order to measure uptime more precisely. We only have data for the last four months, but it already reports 6.84 hours of downtime! So according to the calculations, measured uptime is only 99.65%. But more importantly, downtime is 3.5 times greater than promised.

But that's not all. Just look at the following screenshot:

Outage period lasting more than five days

When I said "6.84 hours of downtime", I purposely didn't take into consideration the outage period highlighted in red.

As it will further be clear, the server, on which our website was hosted, got completely broken. But in this case the admins must quickly restore all files from a recent backup, and move them at least onto a temporary server. I guess, the customer shouldn't even be involved! But instead, we had to call their customer support for more than ten times. And in the end, the files weren't restored anyway.

Poor Support

I will specifically explain our conversations with the support guys. But let me start with some general information.

1and1 doesn't offer the "live chat" support option. You can, however, dial the toll-free phone number. It is likely that the answering person will have an extremely poor knowledge of English. There is also an option of writing an email. I've used it twice, and both times it took the support team more than a day to answer.

But even though they actually answer, they don't give you real information, just stubs! If you're having a technical problem, all these guys can do is writing a ticket for actual administrators. There is no way they can transfer you to the very person responsible for resolving your problem. So it is very likely that the answer that you will get either over the phone or by email is "we are still working on it".

Now let me get back to the last outage incident. It took us several phone calls to find out that the outage is caused by a breakage of the server. To me it was pretty obvious from the very beginning. The support guys promised that they will fix the problem within 12 hours.

After about 36 hours of downtime nothing was fixed. I called 1and1 support again and told them to move our files to another server as soon as possible so that our website be up and running. The support guy who could barely speak English promised me that they will try to restore our files. In 24 hours there was nothing.

We called several more times, but it just didn't help. I even tried to restore the files myself, but all FTP access was down as well! On the third day I was finally able to access my FTP. What I found there was a backup aged about 5 months. But even this outdated backup was incomplete and that the website didn't work anyway!

So I called again and again demanding that a recent backup set be used instead. Keep in mind that every time I was on the phone, there was a guy with extremely poor spoken English.

Finally I got an email saying that the most recent backup had been already restored. Of course, nothing changed and the web site remained down.


Immediately after receiving the last email from 1and1 we restored the files manually. Then I made another phone call asking to explain how to move my domains to a different hosting provider. The irony is: the guy who was on the phone spoke perfect English and gave me precise and detailed instructions. So it turns out that 1and1 can only give good support to the least loyal customers when they are moving away.

My advice is simple: run as fast as you can from 1and1. You're better off paying extra ten bucks for a quality service instead of this crippled hosting with no respect for the customer.

Approach Can Speak Hebrew

by Kerido Monday, April 19, 2010 3:56 PM

I have a relative in Israel who kindly agreed to translate KO Approach into Hebrew. As a matter of fact, I was very suspicious whether Approach will be able to "speak" Hebrew without any code modifications. After all, lack of support for right-to-left text direction was for a long time stated under the Known Issues section of the Help Documentation.

With these thoughts in mind, I warned him that I would be constantly bugging him with various development materials as we would be proceeding. He promised to take it all stoically and provide corrections all the time. So here's the result.

First off, we added a new Metric to the language file. The Metric is responsible for text direction:

<Metric id="IDM_GLOBAL_LANGRTL" factor="1">1</Metric>

Second, I had to implement mirroring for dialogs and message boxes:

General tab

Behavior tab

Settings tab

As you may have noticed, we've removed the question mark from the title bar. The reason is that under the mirrored layout the question mark looked absolutely awkward:

Mirrored question mark

Also, the whole functionality behind the question mark is cumbersome from the usability standpoint. Given that the user is most likely pointing at a control whose meaning is unclear, he or she has to move the mouse away from the control, point at the question mark, click it, then point back at the initial control, and, finally click it again – too many mouse movements for such a simple operation! After all, Approach is about reducing the number of mouse movements and clicks to help you do your day-to-day tasks faster.

Glitching help popups

The previous screenshot illustrates another bug. The HTML Help popups that we were previously using, don't work quite well with the Hebrew language. This is why the whole popup functionality has been replaced by more convenient Tooltips.

Tooltips replacing HTML Help popups

In the meantime, we will publish an update to KO Approach where all these modifications are in effect.

Absolutely Helpless

by Kerido Sunday, April 18, 2010 1:54 AM
Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans!

My trip to Paris has been completely screwed up by the Icelandic volcano whose name no one dares to say on Russian TV. I can try: Eyjafjallajokull, damn it! My flight is cancelled with absolutely no respect to how well everything was previously arranged.

This is yet another example of our complete misunderstanding of how absolutely helpless we are trying to change nature. And that's why the world periodically gives us a little reminder.



Content Updates

by Kerido Friday, April 16, 2010 3:43 AM

I've updated KO Approach screenshots to make them appear more Windows 7 style. Also, the Buy Now page has been updated to look consistently with the Website.

This has been somewhat a hectic week. I'm gonna be off to Paris on Monday and Tuesday. Hopefully, after that we can concentrate on further Approach development. Take care,


Our View on Fair Licensing

by Kerido Wednesday, April 14, 2010 1:41 AM

We do take money for KO Approach. This is part of our strategy pretty much the same way as it is the strategy of some enthusiasts to deliver their products for free. It's hard to write on such ethically ambiguous things without getting involved into a perpetual controversy – what's better: free or non-free software. On one hand, they say that providing free software is the same as helping your neighbor. On the other, labor must be rewarded.

I don't mind helping my neighbor and I do it quite often. I do donate to charity and non-profit organizations. Not only because I want to believe that I'm a good person, but also because it makes me feel that I make a contribution to the world.

Unless it becomes a duty. When Richard Stallman declares that "proprietary software ... forbids cooperation", I feel that there's a ghetto some place where all non-free software vendors will eventually be sent. I'm serious – this compulsory moral that you may not ask for reward for your wok, is a real threat. Just because I'm free to believe I'm worth something. This is why KO Approach will never be free.

How It All Started

I started working on KO Approach not for money, but for one straightforward goal – access my files quicker. One day I just realized how much time I was wasting on things that didn't have anything to do with real work. Although things have somewhat improved on Windows, opening files is still a surprisingly time consuming task.

What I came up with was a program that displayed a list of files in a Windows folder when I clicked on the folder's icon. This functionality is now known as Folder Menus. Instead of beating my way through stacking windows, I now had a convenient menu-based interface that allowed me to reach even a deeply buried file in seconds. I was happy with this minimalistic approach to opening files. My screen was finally clean and free for real tasks. At first, I wasn't even concerned about distributing my product to somebody else. There were no installers, help files, or websites.

Eventually, I showed the tool to a local community. The feedback was roughly as follows: "You know what, browsing folders through menus is cool, but I won't be using your tool unless you add [feature]." This is where I learned three things:

  1. There is demand for the product
  2. More time and effort need to be invested in order to satisfy potential customers
  3. I should take money for the product

So I'm working hard to implement additional features. But this work is fun as I learn new things all the time. I love software development and I love KO Approach. I always wish I had more time to make an even better product.

Licensing Explained

The licensing scheme I implemented may seem extremely harsh. By default, a copy of KO Approach runs in a limited functionality mode in which the following restrictions apply

  1. Only two out of three program features can be turned on. For example, you can run Folder Menus and Approach Items, or Folder Menus and Titlebar Menus, but not all three together.
  2. A maximum of four menus can be displayed. When the fourth menu appears, folders do not show submenu arrows.
  3. At most, two plug-ins can be loaded. This becomes essential with version 0.4.4 that ships with four handy plug-ins out of the box.

In order to unlock, Approach needs a small Activation Key file. Each Key file contains commands and data that provide missing functionality to the program module. A Key file is only valid for one particular machine. This is achieved by gathering hardware data which uniquely identifies the computer on which Approach is running. A hardware update renders the existing Activation Key unusable. Each License has a fixed number of unique computers on which Approach can be activated. When a purchase is made, the customer receives a Serial Number which he or she must then specify in order to receive an Activation Key.

This may seem even crueler than Windows activation policy. The latter at least permits minor hardware changes without the need to reactivate. However, the goal is not to screw our customers by soaking the last penny out of their pockets, but to prevent Serial Number leakage.

Feel Free to Request Additional Activations

Whenever you make a hardware update and you don't have available activations left, just write us an email with a request for additional activations. By receiving an email, we can identify you as a valid customer and assist you as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, I remember one customer who has already requested about ten additional activations. I don't even mind if he installs KO Approach to his entire family with all these extra Keys.

It's fair to me because this is where mutual trust is established: you know you won't be forced into buying additional Licenses after a tiny RAM update and we know your Serial Number remains in good hands. It's probably the same as giving the keys from your house to your friend. But you still want to protect yourself from intruders and thieves, right?