Tag Archives: email

Bandwidth Woes

FYI, it looks like there’s a possibility of this site going down for later tonight. I received an email last night saying I had used 80% of my allocated bandwidth for the month1! Today, I was discussing this absurd spike with my webhost. He started looking into it and while reading over his shoulder noticed I was up to 90% used. From the look of things, there is some sort of spider2 which is acting wonky and just repeatedly downloading the same data over & over. If this continues too much longer, I’ll be out of bandwidth for the month. Fortunately today is the last day of the month so I might get lucky.

1 I get 3GB of bandwidth each month and in a normal month I use ~300MB.
2 “A program that searches for information on the Web.” See Answers.com for more info.

ORGANIC STANDARDS UNDER ATTACK!

The Organic Trade Association and food processors are asking Congress to change the Organic Foods and Production Act (OFPA). This could allow synthetic substances in products labeled “organic” and could weaken organic dairy standards. These amendments were introduced on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Sept. 19, and may be voted on as early as today. Please call your senators NOW!

Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA)
(202) 224-3744
email: chuck_grassley@grassley.senate.gov

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)
(202) 224-9369
email: tom_harkin@harkin.senate.gov

Representative Jim Leach (R-02)
(202) 225-6576
email: http://www.house.gov/leach/email.htm

Representative Leonard Boswell (D-03)
(202) 225-3806
email: rep.boswell.ia03@mail.house.gov

Representative Jim Nussle (R-01)
(202) 225-2911
email: http://nussle.house.gov/email.htm

If you’re not sure which congressman represents your district, please refer to the Congressional Districts map at www.legis.state.ia.us/redist/congress-color.pdf PDF File

*TALKING POINTS*
Note: When calling, speak respectfully. Staffers answering phones don’t need to hear rants. State who you are and a few short words about your relationship to organics (“I’m a member at a natural foods co-op in Iowa City”). Be concise, make the point or points that matter most to you, then sign off with a thank you to the person who takes your call.

The Main Point: “I’m calling to ask the senator to vote against the organic rider on the Agricultural Appropriations Bill. This amendment to the Organic Food Protection Act is unacceptable because it could:
a) permanently allow synthetic processing aids and food contact substances in foods carrying the USDA organic label
b) leave unresolved whether young dairy cows could be treated with antibiotics and then converted to organic after twelve months.
c) create a dangerous loophole in which organic ingredients could be substituted with non-organic ingredients based upon ’emergency decrees’.”

“Furthermore, this amendment is an unacceptable end-run around due process because:
a) it undoes court decisions that have already ruled on these matters.
b) it shuns public comment from organic consumers, who are the ultimate judges of any organic label’s integrity.”

“The strongest aspect of the USDA organic program is its integrity. Please vote against this amendment, Senator.”

Want to learn more?
Organic Consumers Association
Cornucopia Institute

[Editor’s Note]: Ariesna got this information comes from the New Pioneer Coop member’s newsletter.

Feeling Better & Mumbling Randomly

*blech* I hate being sick. Sure, it’s paid time off from work (121.5 hours of sick time remaining) but I’d rather be feeling good and taking vacation time. I am mostly over the bug I’d caught, but still feeling a bit congested. That being the case, I’m skipping coffee today in favor of hot tea1. This being Wednesday, my preference for tea caused a bit of confusion.

Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. Buttercup is marry’ Humperdinck in a little less than half an hour. And every Wednesday, myself and a few co-workers head over to the Terrapin to get a cup of real coffee2. Almost without fail, I order a “Grand Canyon” which is 2 shots of espresso, steamed milk, a shot of dark chocolate syrup and a shot of mango syrup. *yum* When I got there today, I picked up their tea menu and Rob (one of the owners) ordered me to put it down. I explained about the congestion and he accepted it, but I wouldn’t say he was happy about it. Then I ordered their Chinese Breakfast tea, as the description sounded similar to the yunnan jig tea I’ve mentioned before. Hot caffeinated beverages acquired, we headed back to the office and I headed back to the mountain of email that had arrived while I’d been out. After clearing out that mess (most of it went straight to the trash), I started/continued testing a problem I’d been working on Friday. I’m still processing the data for that test now, but I’m also starting to wonder if I should have stayed home again.

Today, like Sunday, I woke up feeling better than the day before. The problem is like Sunday, I didn’t stay home. Sunday, Ariesna & I were invited to go to Niabi Zoo over in Illinois with some of her family. It was a fun day and I took quite a few pictures3 but by the end of the day, I was totally wiped out and realized I should have stayed home. Now I’m not wiped out (so far) but I do feel more tired than I should from just sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen. Ah well, not much I can do about that now.

BTW, last night I upgraded Cath‘s site to the current version of WordPress. I was kind of annoyed at how long it took but then most of that time was taken up my crappy ftp client having problems deleting the files for the old version from the webserver. Mind you I was booted into Windows at the time4 which undoubtably was part of the problem. But I did eventually get it done and wouldn’t you know it looks nearly identical to what it did before. I’d call that a good sign for a seamless upgrade, but I’m waiting to hear back from her before I call it a success. So why the upgrade? In part to patch some old security holes and in part because all the new/interesting stuff for WP is happening on the newer versions. This way if she feels like going out and picking a different theme5; it should be trivial to install it.

Anyway, one of the reasons I was annoyed with the amount of time it took was last night also happened to be the season premier for NCIS. I’ve been a fan of this show for a while now, but season 2’s finale was murder. Quite literally, as they killed off one of the NCIS agents. I was very much looking forward to seeing where they’d take the show next, but with upgrading the site and some other things I didn’t get to watch the show as thoroughly as I would have liked. From what I did see, I’m not sure how enjoyable season 3 will be. I don’t care for the new characters they introduced into the NCIS office (Director Jenny Shepard and Agent Ziva David). The romatic background between Gibbs & Shepard could be an interesting subplot but they seem to be pushing it too hard in an episode which should be dealing more directly with the remaining NCIS agents working to find Kate’s killer. And then to make the episode a 2-parter leaving us on another cliff-hanger is distinctly annoying. *sigh* I guess we’ll have to wait and see if they can pull this up with next week’s episode.

1 Next to chicken noodle soup, hot tea works best for clearing up congestion and helping me feel better.
2 The first part of this paragraph is a quote from The Princess Bride. And when I say coffee, I mean flavored espresso.
3 I’ll see about posting some of them later. Incidentally, there was a classic car show being held on the zoo’s premises so don’t be surprised if you see more car than animals photos.
4 I had some work to do that required M$ Word, as OpenOffice Writer couldn’t properly edit the fancy formating in the document (originally created in M$ Word).
5 By perhaps looking through the themes in Alex King’s Theme Browser….

Office Conversations

At work, I’m on an email thread discussing what people are planning on eating at an upcoming office function. There’s been talk of grilling some steaks, but some people feel that’s kind of expensive. One of the other people on the list is a vegetarian and she jokingly replied saying “tofu is cheaper!” To which somebody else replied “But I don’t eat bean flesh!”. Then our vegetarian replied saying:

There are two kinds of things in the world. Things that fart. And things that make things fart.

I don’t eat things that fart.

She later claimed she was quoting somebody else who wishes to remain anonymous but I think she’s just trying to shift the blame. :p

WebKeyDesign Interviewed

It’s another long, boring day at work and so CoffeeBear.net is happy to bring you this interview with the man behind our webhost, WKD.

CB.net: Who is WebKeyDesign?
WKD: Essentially, it’s just one person. Francisco Olaguez.

CB.net: What inspired you to start your own company?
WKD: At first it was boredom, because I felt that there was not enough challenging things in my life, but now that I reflect on it more. Even though the business has made my life more stressful, it has improved my health. I have less time and what time I do have is more focused. I am definitely the type of person that produces more in chaos, than order, so if lots of things are happening, I end up doing more, not less.

CB.net: What is WebKeyDesign?
WKD: Well, the WebKeyDesign.com website serves two purposes. The main one of course is for people to purchase simple web hosting and support for their websites.

My customers are mostly average people who have modest hosting needs like bloggers and of course non-technical clients who need a web site, but who have very limited budgets. The original market for WebKeyDesign was suppose to be for daycare organizations that wanted to create a web presence. Once the school season starts again, I will actually start to work on a couple of daycare sites.

CB.net: Daycares with a web presence? Where did you ever come up with that idea?
WKD: My son’s daycare is a non-profit business and I found that their primary way of communicating with parents is through paper flyers. Most school children bring home a lot of paper already from the school, and young children are very good at losing things like papers. I suggested to them that they use a web site instead to publish their information, this way even if the child lost it, the parents could access everything online.

The daycare was interested in this, but the local school system does not allow for things like MySQL and CGI on their webserver, so the daycare would have to purchase hosting separately to make a nice dynamic site.

Eventually, it was they who pushed me into taking care of everything, from hosting, to site design, to support.

CB.net: I’ve noticed lately you’ve been reading a lot about SEO (e.g. in magazines and on websites). How does this fit into your company’s mission of providing simple web hosting & support for the non-technical crowd? Also, what is SEO anyways?
WKD: SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization. Coming from a technical background, I knew that quite a bit of hacking takes place on the Internet, but in the SEO world, you will find a lot of it as well.

What good, harmless SEO means, is that you make your site popular by doing such things as analyzing your web traffic, finding the right search phrases that people use, and monitoring your competition to see what makes them popular.

Some SEO is expensive, like using a Google AdWords campaign to market your site to the Internet at large.

Then there is the spammer SEO, some of this came to light with the WordPress.org website. Spammer SEO is all about cheating the search engines like Google and Yahoo.

WordPress.org has a very high Google PageRank which is what Google uses to rank a site important. By WordPress.org linking to your site or collection of sites, you instantly attain a higher PageRank, which makes your site higher on Google’s search results. Search Engines believe that sites should be important because of their content, not their links, and so stuffing a bunch of invisible links into a popular site to make other sites popular is not something they condone.

However, spammer SEO does happen every day and the search engines are getting better at ignoring it, but from a business point of view, if you can drive 10,000 more visitors to your site, the temptation is hard to resist.

In some cases though site owners do not understand that what they are doing is borderline unethical, and if you break Google’s policies enough, they will ban your site and possibly your business.

CB.net: Just to clarify, when you mentioned “hacking”, in your previous answer, were you meaning it in the same blatantly wrong manner as the mainstream media (e.g. as a reference to illegally accessing other people’s computers and/or networks) or are you actually using it in the correctly (as a reference to programming a computer in a clever, virtuosic, and wizardly manner1)?
WKD: I mean it more in a general way, that hacking is something you do that you know is wrong, but you do it anyway because you can. In other words, not hacking for the sake of curiosity.

CB.net: That doesn’t make much sense…
WKD: It’s like stealing a pack of gum. You know it’s wrong and don’t really need the gum, but you’re doing it anyway. Basically, I’m using it as a negative term.2

CB.net: Sorry about digressing there, but the way the mainstream media misuses the term is one of my pet peeves. Getting back to talking about SEO, you gave a good overview of it but you have not yet told us how it plays into your company’s strategy.
WKD: I myself don’t have the time to do much SEO. I rather make WebKeyDesign.com popular by adding content than by researching a new key phrase every day. Plus, the big strategy was there from the beginning, when I switched to WordPress to drive the site’s main content. WP has some great plugins like SiteMapper and Jerome’s Keywords that make SEO easy for everyone3. Blogs in general have some great built-in features that helps search engines index them.

RSS being the most important and obvious one that I can think of.

CB.net: What do you find most enjoyable about having started the company?
WKD: There is a sense of empowerment in being able to say that you run your own little enterprise, and then there is the occasional moment when a customer is really happy with your business and lets you know it.

CB.net: And what’s the worst part?
WKD: For me it has always been sales and marketing. Even when I was younger and sold audio equipment, I was never that great of a salesman. I hate to bother people in general, but when you are a small business, marketing is everything. You have to open your mouth and introduce yourself, give strangers your business card, and so on, because you never know when you will hit upon your next customer.

Some clients end up buying your product after they thought about it, and other clients make up their mind immediately. So far, when I have kept in touch with potential clients, it has not worked for me; I have had better success with being less of a salesman.

CB.net: Doesn’t that make the choice of starting a web hosting company rather awkward? After all, there are thousands of companies out there already doing this sort of thing.
WKD: Yes, the market is quite flooded with overnight hosting companies, but what I found out through research is that the majority of companies doing webhosting are not interested in talking to small clients. The major hosting companies only want clients who can pay around $35 or more a month for services.

Their business is also very automated. Any time they actually have to communicate with people, even through email cost them money, and cuts into their profits, so the majority of companies would rather not deal at all with small websites.

It is actually the same thing with domain names and other internet services. Companies see support as a negative, so they rather not have these clients at all.

This is where WebKeyDesign comes in. We only service small clients and we give them the same product that they could not afford otherwise. The biggest benefit is that they talk to a real person and they get actual support even though they are paying less.

CB.net: It certainly sounds like a noble goal and we wish you luck with it. I’m afraid that I’ve run out of questions for you. Do you have any closing remarks that you’d like to make?
WKD: I would like to thank you, Manzabar for your time, and say that starting your own business really requires three things: Money, Patience, and Determination. You have to be careful that you use what little money you have wisely and that your grow the business gradually as best you can. Thank you.

Well faithful readers, that’s it for this interview. If you liked this sort of thing, please let me know in the comments and perhaps we can see about doing again sometime in the future.

1 Definition taken from the Urban Dictionary.
2 The majority of this interview was done via IM; however this question/answer was just chatter back&forth through the cube walls of our office. As such, the wording used here may not be 100% accurate.
3 I checked with WKD after the interview to get the links to the plugins he mentioned and found when he said SiteMapper; he was actually referring to the Google Sitemap Generator plugin.

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