Blog Archives

Mandela Ribbon for WordPress

Honour Nelson Mandela with a Website Ribbon

Honour Nelson Mandela with a remembrance ribbon on your WordPress blog. When I heard the sad news today I wanted to show my condolences on my WordPress sites, so knocked up a couple of plugins to put a ribbon in the top right corner of the sites.

Download Your Mandela Ribbon Plugin

There are 2 versions of the ribbon. One shows an English message, while the other is in Mandela’s home language – Xhosa (plugin code is in English)

Download from

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South Africa’s Most Expensive Website

Provincial Government Website Costs Taxpayers R140M

most expensive website iconWell, that’s one version of the story. The Free State Provincial government claims it spent only R40M – on 38 websites! Whichever version is true, the questions remain;

  • why does a provincial government need to have 38 websites?
  • hho in their right mind pays over R1M for any small website?
  • if the R140M is correct, then surely the websites must be massive – with thousands of pages, highly functional, and completely custom designed from the ground up.

Expensive Free State Website

The website causing the controversy is the official website of the Free State Provincial Government (Province is similar to a US State)
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Hosting Change – Ten Times Faster

Website Loads 10 Times Faster After Hosting Change

One of my sub-sites loads 10 times faster after moving the domain to an offshore server. To be totally fair and put the improvement in perspective, the actual server is not that much faster; the big difference is route latency or lag.

graph showing 10 times faster page load speed

Before moving the average time it took Google-bot to load a page from this site was around 1100 ms. Now, a month later we can see the improvement – average time is about 100 ms..

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International Telecommuting Challenges

The Challenges of Telecommuting Internationally

telecommuting internationally iconModern information and communication technology introduced a new era in the way we work. It promised a new era where we could work from anywhere, no matter where in the world our office is located, or where in the world our customers came from.  For some of us at least the this new era has arrived.

For others, the promise of telecommuting is only partly realised.

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GNAX Hosting – Early Results

GNAX Hosting – So Far So Good

Last week I moved my domain to GNAX VPS hosting. I’ve watched Google page load times get shockingly poor the past four months. Nothing I’ve done on-site to improve performance has made any difference. I’d already tried several caching systems and offloaded some files to a CDN and other fast servers – with no improvement.

Eventually, after trying everything else, the only conclusion I could draw was the long path bottleneck between Google’s Mountain View servers and the data centre servers hosting my domain was the main culprit in the time it took for Big G to load pages.

Average page loads for 2 of the sites (WordPress) on the domain had gone from under 2.5 seconds in May to over 4 seconds in August and over 5 by September, while the main site (Drupal) was approaching 4 seconds from under 2 in May. Minimum page load speed had got to nearly 4 seconds for one site by September.

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Why Do You Want a Website

Do You Really Want or Need a Website?

why want a website iconIs a question I find myself asking (silently) prospective and even some existing clients. It’s a terrible thing for a web-master to ask. I make a living (well try to anyway) from website construction, management and support. Yet I really think some companies don’t need a website. I know they don’t really want one, it’s just the thing to do.

A website is a responsibility; it needs frequent and regular updating, lots of content, a clear idea about what is expected.

The Worse Reason To Have a Website:

“We have to have a website, it’s expected today”. Right, at least part of that statement is true. I for one hesitate to deal with a business that doesn’t have a website. But this is not a good reason for a business to own a site. I hear this statement repeated by business owners all the time. Usually in a sentence “The website doesn’t bring us any business, but we have to have one”.

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Is MWEB a Spammers Haven?

MWEB IPs used by Spammers and Hackers

mweb spam ips icon

Checking an IP record for after noticing a minor offence this morning – the ubiquitous and quite stupid practice of adding “/undefined” to the end of actual URLs – brought up a list of IPs in the neighbourhood. All the IP’s included below belong to MWEB. ( IP lookup records.)

MWEB, a South African Internet Service Provider, has previously had IP’s under their control listed in several databases as a source of spam e-mails. According to Project Honeypot  a range of IP’s managed by MWEB is (or was) used by Spammers and Dictionary Attackers.

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Changing Hosting Service

Should I Change My Hosting Service

I’m not unhappy with my current hosting service – just the opposite in fact. They provide a good service, are quick to respond to support requests and my sites work great. The hosting service is not the problem.

The problem is our internet network – connecting to my sites admin panels, editing content and so on has become a nightmare of frustration over the past several months. Latency and ping rates are so bad that often it’s impossible to save content or undertake backend admin.

But at the same time, I can work on offshore hosted sites with few problems – this blog is one of them. It’s crazy to think that the distance from my computer to the data-centre hosting my websites is only about 40km, but the routing takes my connection through more jumps, often switching all over the country, than a connection to servers hosted in North America!

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Online Payment Hampers Small Business

Online Payment Problem for South African SME’s

South African SME’s are hampered by lack of economical online payment facilities for their customers. Small enterprises in SA came across a big stumbling block when trying to trade online in South Africa; Normal credit card methods of online payment are simply too expensive for most small traders, taking around 8.5 percent in transaction fees. Many operate at low margins in order to be competitive.

Low cost online payment methods are not available, e.g. the well-known PayPal service cannot be integrated successfully with e-commerce application using local SA Rand as the base currency. Direct transfer by online banking is not a realistic payment method for cash strapped customers, most will need to pay using a credit card for all except small item purchases.

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Mobile Data Crunch (and Costs)

Data Bundle Overload: End to Free Mobile Data

data bundlesIt looks like mobile data users at the Southern tip of Africa are not the only ones looking at paying high prices for data bundles (or buckets as they are known in some locales). The USA is joining the trend of charging for mobile data. Down South we have never known the privilege of free mobile data, having some of the highest data cost per GB in the world – at least when compared to first world civilisation.

The Data Crunch

The end of free mobile data is no real surprise. The RF frequencies used to carry this traffic are limited in capacity, new compression technology can only go so far to reduce the load on these channels. Urguably more frequencies could be made available, however these would have to be in higher frequency bands than are currently used. Increasing RF frequency brings it’s own problems – higher frequencies (into the  mid and high Ghz region) suffer more loss from inclement weather signal absorption from structures, components cost more, and we have to consider the human health related dangers of microwave radiation.

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