Apr 28 2010

Episode 11: Pennsylvania

by andrew

Episode 11 of Journeys – Mar/Apr 2010: Pennsylvania country adventures: creek and mud play, lazy weekends, playgrounds, a regular children paradise.

Apr 23 2010


by jaiden

“hey, dad, can you help me do it by myself?”

(age 3)

Apr 23 2010


by zach

the boy: “I lost some of my eyesight.”

the dad: “Oh? What happened?”

the boy: “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

Apr 21 2010

fraternal affection

by zach

“i love my brother SO much…

…i don’t want him to die”

Apr 21 2010

PHP.ini Issues on Fat Cow Hosting

by andrew

You’ll have to bear with me – all of you who are interested in our story for the human aspect – I must descend into Geekdom Venting Land for a post here.

I’m a story teller, so if you just want to know how to fix shopping carts or other PHP web applications hosted by Fat Cow, skip down a few paragraphs.

Renee and I design and code websites together and between the two of us we’ve worked on everything from massive enterprise SharePoint driven collaborative web environments to mom-and-pop hand crafted simple sites and everything CMS or static in between. We’ve built and hacked and skinned and themed Drupal and WordPress and even peeked at Joomla, and we’ve done it across quite a range of hosting providers over the years:

  • Go Daddy (our personal favorite for a while now – a little too clicky but the best admin tools and excellent support)
  • Fat Cow (a pretty amazing deal with their unlimited plan)
  • 1 and 1 (so so… wouldn’t recommend necessarily, but tolerable)
  • iPowerWeb (sometimes a necessary evil)
  • HostPrince (I do NOT recommend them at all, but my experience with them is a couple years old now)
  • etc.

Implementing similar solutions across a variety of hosting platforms, I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I am still caught somewhat off guard by the variety out there in default configurations and compliance (or lack thereof) with best practices that sometimes get taken for granted.

Case in point: Fat Cow’s default php.ini file is simply atrocious. I love their unlimited plan, and in my short experience with them so far their service is solid. But it’s like they installed PHP on the shared servers a few years ago and never touched the php.ini config. Ever.

Why is this a problem? Well, if you want to run anything like WordPress you’re going to need more than teh default memory_limit = 18M from like 1980 (ok, not really but you get the point). Go Daddy defaults theirs to 32M I think … or maybe it’s 64M now… And if you want to run anything like a shopping cart that requires php sessions – forget it (unless you start by uncommenting the session.save_path line and setting it to something useful – even though the session.save_handler = files … unreal! by default it tells php to use the filesystem to save sessions but doesn’t give it anywhere to put session files.).

This all finally came to head when I was trying to get eShop working in WordPress for http://ordercu.com

I knew eShop was probably NOT the culprit because we set it up and have it working great on http://foodbeautiful.com (hosted by Go Daddy).

What is funny (not) is that 2 months ago I had beaten my head against 3-4 different cart systems in WordPress for  http://indiefilmvideo.com (also hosted on Fat Cow) and never got to the bottom of why they wouldn’t work quite right. Well, now I know.

SO – the moral of the post is, here are the first tweaks you might want to make to your php.ini file if your host is Fat Cow. (If you don’t know where to find the php.ini file or how to modify it, you probably shouldn’t anyway). These are the changes I have made so far. In each case, just update the values being set.

  • memory_limit  = 64M
  • [uncomment – delete “;” – and set session.save_path to something like]:
  • session.save_path = “/home/users/web/b2634/moo.ACCOUNTNAME/cgi-bin/tmp”
    (make sure you pull YOUR actual home path from the front page of the Fat Cow control panel)
    (without this change php sessions will not work and you will get bizarre behavior in shopping carts where the things you add to the cart disappear on checkout or subsequent visits to the cart)
  • register_globals = Off
    (eeeek! can you believe that was still defaulted to On ???)

So, there you have it. Even with these basic tweaks WordPress will hum a LOT faster and you’ll actually be able to use shopping cart plugins for it. Imagine that.

    Apr 17 2010

    Day 371: Now What?

    by andrew

    You know, I had this whole thing planned – we were going to hit day 365 and I was going to write this extremely insightful and introspective post on what it means to have been at this for a year already… Well, the day came and went and we’ve been so busy that we didn’t even notice. Isn’t that typical? And doesn’t that say everything right there all by itself?

    Apr 8 2010

    Day 362: Slowing Down – NOT!

    by andrew

    What a amazing week… well and a bit I guess. We had an amazing Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread for the last week here in PA, met some incredible people, lots of fellowship, meals, sharing, learning together etc. Still managed to put in nearly 40 hours on projects even with 3 Sabbaths in there. Don’t know how I pulle d . adf firgh Zzzzzz….

    wha … What? what was I saying? Oh right, anyway. This will all be more cursory than it should be because I am in the process of digging out of a 3-month photographic hole. I have 2 down and 1 to go and will share in a second. So back to updates: the kids are in wild country mode: scraping knees, swinging on rope swings, playing in the creek, cutting bare feet, flying down the hill on scooters, running around with friends, that sort of thing.

    Other highlights: Reayah got to be be a flower girl in her first wedding experience, I just spent three hours with Bennah “organizing” his bed (a bio hazmat operation I can assure you)… actually that might not make much sense to you unless I also provide the additional detail that the kids keep all their personal things / toys / collections at the foot of their beds, Joy is both participating in and resisting potty training at the same time quite nicely, Zach and Jaiden are quite the buddies now and while Zach is convinced we are going to build a flying car together this summer – one that actually flies – Jaiden just wants to make sure that he is doing whatever his brothers are doing.

    It’s raining gently outside… such a soothing thing… totally different experience than from inside a house. I got two new drain spouts attached to the rain channel today (I knocked them off a couple months ago when a branch reached out across an otherwise reasonable turn radius and scraped a few little holes in our rubber roof that we discovered a few weeks later during a massive downpour in the form of extra water we didn’t need in the kids room). I patched the holes up earlier in the week.

    Today was laundry day. And grocery day. And pick up the new door latch from the RV dealer finally day.

    I have to tell you about our main door latch. Ok. Proof positive that things are engineered to break – this was the most ridiculous design ever – back in Florida the tab that was responsible for making the entire handle and latch mechanism work broke clean off and we were stuck inside the trailer until I disassembled the whole thing. I tried everything to avoid having to buy another cheap replacement that would just cause another head ache later. I am not kidding – here are some of the random things I employed in various attempts to rig it (some of which lasted longer than others): aluminum from a beer can, JB weld (but it was too old to last) and a hex nut, a screw, a modified golf tee (still inside the spring to control handle travel distance), hockey tape by itself, and hockey tape with pop-sickle stick (which is actually working fairly well so far). But the moment of truth will come and I better get a proper replacement in there. It has been quite a thorn in my side.

    Anyway, enough boring RV life drivel. Here are some pictures! Including some from the solar panel project that I added to the truck.

    January 2010

    February 2010

    Solar Panel Project