Merry Christmas 2008!

It’s that time of year again where I get woken early by my kids and mumble, “just 5 more minutes” while they are bouncing up and down on their Daddy’s tortured body.   It’s that time of year again when I finally roll out of bed and half fall down to the stairs with a big smile on my face as I look forward to seeing my children gleefully shred wrapping paper with wonder in their eyes at the gifts they’ve received.  It’s that time of year again when my wife and I look at each other with that understanding and gratitude for the blessing of sharing this moment with our children and just the wonder of being together.  It’s that time of year again when I’m reminded that if it weren’t for the incarnation, the most extravagant gift of God in Jesus Christ – that none of this would be possible.

Hope you had a great day today folks with family and friends!

On a side note, I probably won’t be responding to comments etc. around here that much for the next couple of weeks.  I’m heading off to the Ukraine on a missions trip.  I’m joining a team from my church to visit and help some orphanages over there.  I’m going to try to post some pics and notes on my trip while there – but it all depends on what my online access is like.

Organize Series 2.0.8 released

It’s time to get out of beta and get this version onto WordPress.org/extend/plugins so more users can enjoy all the goodies.  Once again, a big thanks to all the people who have helped test and fix the bugs that first got introduced way back when WordPress 2.6 was released.  There’s so many of you I’ve lost track – but they are in the feed 😉

Click here to download Organize Series 2.0.8

Here’s a list of fixes/features with this new version:

New features

  • Added a new argument to the “wplistseries” function – “number” which enables users to limit the number of series displayed
  • Reworked the layout of Organize Series administration integration with WordPress so it “fits” with WordPress 2.7 – including showing “Series” in the Dashboard “Right Now” widget.
  • Organize Series interface can be floated around and respositioned in the write/edit posts screen for WordPress 2.7
  • moved the “Manage Series” menu item to the Posts submenu area for WP2.7 (previous versions stay in the same location)

Minor

  • fixed an inconsistency with ‘showlastupdate’
  • fixed some bugs with the atom feed (was an early update…not sure if it’s still working correctly now)
  • fixed the ‘series_description’ function (it wasn’t working)

Major

  • Organize Series will now work correctly with the post-revisions feature introduced with WordPress 2.6
  • redid the plugin file locater code to allow for changes with the admin menu filters.
  • redid the plugin file locater code to allow for users customizing the location of their wp-content folder
  • redid all code referencing wp-config.php to allow for users customizing the location of their wp-config.php file (see http://planetozh.com/blog/2008/07/what-plugin-coders-must-know-about-wordpress-26/ for reference I used).
  • Fixed posts that are a part of series but not published showing up in the series list on published posts that are part of a series-taxonomy
  • Fixed a bug where custom navigation text set on the Series options page wasn’t showing up correctly.

What’s on the horizon?

Something I had hoped to do with Organize Series with this release was to localize it so it can be translated into different languages.  Some of the framework is there but I still have quite a bit of work to go before I’m ready to give it to translators to begin working on it.  If you are a user of Organize Series and are interested in translating it into another language leave a comment with this post (even if you’ve offered to help before) and that will give me a list of people to contact once it’s ready to be translated!  Be aware that I don’t have a timetable for this yet though as I’ve got a busy couple of months ahead of me…

New Look: Unfolding Neurons 3.0

Time for a change around here.  A change that’s actually been in the works for quite a while.  I started working on a new theme for Unfolding Neurons at the beginning of 2008 but got sidetracked by changes in my life and never could get back to working on the theme I was developing (realized I didn’t like it anyway).  Part of the prep for the new look involved restructuring my blog and doing a major decompress of all my categories.  I eliminated over 40 categories I was using and decided I would use categories for the major themes in my blog and tags for all the other ways of describing what I write.

When I saw what was coming through the pipes with WordPress 2.7 I decided that rather than developing a theme from scratch, I’d take a look at what other good themes are out there and modify one to suit my needs.  That’s when I came across the excellent “Hybrid” theme framework by Justin Tadlock which he developed with WordPress 2.7 in mind.  What I like about Hybrid is that it is a framework that you can build child themes off of and if Justin updates Hybrid I can switch in the update without having to worry about the custom changes I’ve made for my site.  Unfolding Neurons 3.0 is actually built off of a child theme for Hybrid that Justin created called “Old School“.

I’ve still got more ideas for how I want to display posts around here but at least I’ve got the basics down.  Some of those ideas include styling  posts in certain categories a certain way and emphasizing “Asides” differently than other posts.  I also want to remove the Organize Series posts from the main loop on the front page and maybe move them to the sidebar.  But that might not be such a big problem if I can start posting more frequently here…which is something that I hope to do now that my blog has a fresh new look 🙂  If you are a reader of Unfolding Neurons (or just a lurker for Organize Series stuff) – let me know in the comments what you think of the new look!

Bluehost problems update

Hilarious (in an annoying way)…here’s what I sent off to support after my site went live again.

Thanks for putting my site live again.  What is the threshold at which my site would be deactivated and how can I monitor to make sure it’s within that threshold?  I really don’t want to be deactivated without warning again…especially when I have had the same site up and running for almost a year without any problems!

Thanks for the quick response and help

Important question to ask you might think!  I don’t want to be caught unawares with my websites being deactivated with no warning.  Here’s the “friendly” response I got from support today…

There isn’t a specific threshold.  Your website can not cause performance problems on our server.

Bluehost
Abuse Department
888-401-4678

Terms of Service – https://www.bluehost.com/cgi/info/terms.html

Notice they put the link to the terms of service in there.  At first I took it as meaning that it is impossible for my site to cause performance issues with the server (as in their service is robust enough to handle anything we throw at it)…but am starting to realize that what this is really saying is, “too bad, if we decide your site is doing something to our servers you’re out of luck and we’ll shut you down”.  Uh, oh.  This is absolutely RIDICULOUS!  They’re telling me that there is no way for me to know if I’m causing problems for the shared server I’m on until they decide my website is causing performance issues and they shut me down!

Further, I did a quick scan of their terms of service and here’s the only thing that I could see may be related to the previous sequence of events…

  1. “UNLIMITED” USAGE POLICIES AND DEFINITIONS
    1. What “Unlimited” means. BlueHost.Com does not set an arbitrary limit or cap on the amount of resources a single Subscriber can use. In good faith and subject to these Terms, BlueHost.Com makes every commercially reasonable effort to provide its Subscribers with all the storage and bandwidth resources needed to power their web sites successfully, as long as the Subscriber’s use of the service complies with these Terms. By not setting limits on key resources, we are able to provide simple, consistent pricing to our Subscribers as they grow their websites. As a result, a typical website may experience periods of great popularity and resulting increased storage without experiencing any associated increase in hosting charges.
    2. What “Unlimited” DOES NOT mean. BlueHost.Com employs complex mechanisms to protect its Subscribers and systems from abuse. BlueHost.Com’s offering of “unlimited” services is not intended to allow the actions of a single or few Subscribers to unfairly or adversely impact the experience of other Subscribers.BlueHost.Com’s service is a shared hosting service, which means that multiple Subscriber web sites are hosted from the same server and share server resources. BlueHost.Com’s service is designed to meet the typical needs of small business and home business website Subscribers in the United States. It is NOT intended to support the sustained demand of large enterprises, internationally based businesses, or non-typical applications better suited to a dedicated server.BlueHost.Com will make every commercially reasonable effort to provide additional resources to Subscribers who are using their website(s) consistent with these Terms, including moving Subscribers to newer and bigger shared servers as necessary. However, in order to ensure a consistent and quality experience for all Subscribers, BlueHost.Com does place automated safeguards to protect against any one site growing too quickly and adversely impacting the system until BlueHost.Com can evaluate said sites resource needs.
    3. Unlimited Hosting Space. BlueHost.Com does not set arbitrary limits on the amount of disk space a Subscriber can use for the Subscriber’s website, nor does BlueHost.Com charge additional fees based on an increased amount of storage used, provided the Subscriber’s use of storage complies with these Terms. Please note, however, that the BlueHost.Com service is designed to host websites . BlueHost.Com does NOT provide unlimited space for online storage, backups, or archiving of electronic files, documents, log files, etc., and any such prohibited use of the Services will result in the termination of Subscriber’s account, with or without notice.
    4. Unlimited File Transfer. BlueHost.Com does not set arbitrary limits on the amount of visitor traffic a web site can receive or on the amount of content a Subscriber can upload to his/her/its website in a given month, nor does BlueHost.Com charge additional fees based on increased use of bandwidth, as long as the Subscriber’s use of the Services complies with these Terms. In most cases, a Subscriber’s web site will be able to support as much traffic as the Subscriber can legitimately acquire. However, BlueHost.Com reserves the right to limit processor time, bandwidth, or processes in cases where it is necessary to prevent negatively impacting other Subscribers.
    5. Unlimited Domain Hosting. BlueHost.Com does not set arbitrary limits on the number of domain names a Subscriber can associate with the Subscriber’s web hosting account

I use WordPress on all my hosted sites and have done so for over a year.  I don’t use any of my webhost space as backup space.  I am not a heavily visited destination for the internets (but have had some spikes up to 700 visitors/day related to my Organize Series plugin).  What bothers me most about this fiasco is that there was no warning given to me that my website(s) were causing performance issues on the servers and I’m not being assured that there will be any warning given in the future.

I know he won’t, but I’m hoping Matt Heaton, the CEO of Bluehost sees this.  I really don’t want to have to go host shopping again but I will.

(I post things like this because finding a good webhost is really difficult these days… Bluehost was awesome for me until this past week.  I gladly welcome any comments from any BlueHost employees – your support channel is of very little help in this case…)

Temporary change to Unfolding Neurons

My host (bluehost.com) shut down my site at about 4:00pm (EST) today and support told me that it was due to excessive MySql queries and CPU load.  Some notes about this experience:

  • Support was very fast on getting back to me when I contacted them.
  • They weren’t very helpful when it came to what I needed to do.  I had to track down information in their knowledge base.
  • A quick browse on the internets via Google showed me that bluehost has received some negative press re their mysterious CPU lockout and suspension issues.  Seems like they aren’t really set up to run trafficked WordPress sites on their shared servers.
  • The suspension came out of the blue (no pun intended).  No warnings, no emails prior to, nothing, nada.  It would have been helpful if I had at least received a notice that my site was causing problems on the servers and I needed to make some modifcations or they’d shut things down…

I’ve temporarily switched to the default WordPress theme and have deactivated some of my plugins to avoid getting “suspended” again.  I have also totally switched off “UnashamedSermons.com” (my sermons site that is hosted on this account) as it was a pretty big offender when it came to mySql queries.  I’ve also activated the “SuperCache” plugin to hopefully serve up some static files for frequently visited pages on this site (and thus cutting down database queries).

The funny thing is – I’m really close to updating the theme on my site (more optimized) and releasing a new version of Organize Series (once I can figure out how to quash this bug).

I really hope BlueHost doesn’t suspend/deactivate things here again.  If they do – I’m done with them and will look for another host.  I simply don’t have the time to diddle daddle with a host that fails to allocate sufficient resources to their customers (or at least be up front about what you can and can’t do…don’t advertise you can handle WordPress sites if you can’t).  I’ve been with BlueHost for a year now with very little downtime and no indication that any of my websites were causing any issues with their servers!  The only redeeming aspect of this experience so far is the quick response of their support staff.  From what I read on the internets I really wasn’t expecting to see my site live until Monday.

Anyway, just thought I’d post this update here for anyone wondering what’s going on!