Category Archives: hosting

how to sync or backup files easily and secure

I found out not everybody knows about Dropbox yet and isn’t using it yet. So to sort that out, I’m going to blab about it right here cause I think it’s pretty damn neat. In short Dropbox allows you to sync files from your local PC’s by installing a small client app on your machines. You get a “My Dropbox” folder in your “My Documents” folder and everything you dump in there gets uploaded to the dropbox servers, and automatically downloaded on all other PCs where the client is also running. Viola! You’re machines are now perfectly in sync!

You get 2 gigabytes of free space so you can share some pretty big files that way too, or you can use it as a small off-site backup system. There’s no size limitations so you can waste the full 2 GB on a single file if you like.

Here’s some more cool stuff you can do with your Dropbox account:

  1. Share uploaded files using direct links. No adds, no fuss, just a direct link to the file to download.
  2. Share a whole folder with someone else’s Dropbox account. Allows for easy collaboration. Neat.
  3. Dropbox keeps a 30 day delete/change history of your files. So you can download a previous version of a file, or undelete it. It’s like a mini-source control system.
  4. Access your files from the website without the need to install the Dropbox client software. Handy in case you want to access a file from a computer where you can’t or don’t want to install the client.
  5. It’s secure. You files are encrypted with your account password on the server so even the Dropbox folks can’t see what they are and uploads go over an encrypted channel so peeping Toms get no idea either.
  6. It’s multi-platform. Linux, Mac, Windows and even the bloody iPhone. Go figure.

See the full list of features if you think this sounds pretty sweet and if you join up using this referrer link you’ll be giving me an additional 250MB for my own account, which is also pretty damn sweet. Thanks!

Photo by helgasms!, cc-licensed.

more free file hosting bizznizz

ghost in the Machine / deus ex macintosh
cc-licensed photo by ehoyer

Hosting audio, video or text files publicly is what archive.org is for. But what if you want to share to a more limited audience, like a few friends, or some lad you have to send a bunch of files to so he can do some mastering on it for an awesome project you’re doing?

Well, mediafire.com is pretty damn suited for stuff like that. It’s not just a file hosting site like there are a ton out there. It looks the same at first, and you can use it for the odd anonymous upload like the others, but you can also create a free account there, and unlock some nifty new features.  Here’s what you can do with it:

  • Host files up to 100 MB. If your files are bigger (and mine where) you can use 7zip to split them up into 100MB parts, and upload those
  • Unlimited disk space. Sounds kick ass doesn’t it? Here it goes again: Unlimited disk space!! Rad.
  • With an account, you can manage your shared files. Create folders, share folders, delete files/folders etc.
  • Link and embed code is generated for you. You only have to copy paste it. There’s even a button to that just that for you. I mean, really, they can’t make it any easier than that.
  • Your files do not get deleted after a certain period of inactiviy. They simply don’t get deleted automatically, so you don’ t need to bother with links timing out after a few weeks.
  • Embed your files on your own site. If you’re short on webspace and embed some video on your blog, myspace or whatever, this might be just what you are looking for.
  • Add descriptions and tags to your files. Tags are still hip right? Well, they support it.
  • Unshare files, making them only available to yourself again. Like when you fucked up and hosted some pictures that shouldn’t have been seen by the world, and certainly not the entire internet. Whoops.
  • No obnoxious ads for your downloaders, and none for you either. Ads are there, but they are subtle. I like that. The other file hosting services screw up bigtime in that department.
  • Photo Gallery view. Now I’d recommend Flickr to host your photo’s of course, but this isn’t bad either. As I said, no limitations here, and pictures get automatically resized into thumbs and smaller views to keep it easy on the low bandwidth downloader. You can see an example here of some silly TV screenshots I took. You’ll have to click the Photo Gallery link on the top right.

So I guess mediafire doesn’t suck. Sometimes you have to upload things twice though, as it goofs up somewhere in the upload process. For small files that ain’t too bad, but for huge ones it really sucks. But hey, it’s free remember, so it’s still pretty darn cool to be able to manage and share files for free like this.

using archive.org for file hosting

For the love of Moby
cc-licensed photo by J. Star

For the 60×60 Buzz Compilation I was looking for a place where I could host pretty large files, and also host them without having to worry about bandwidth problems if it would end up getting downloaded a few thousand times. There are always a bunch of options but choosing Archive.org to host this project was definitely a good thing to do.

So what’s so good about it? How about starting with the things that are no so good, so we can keep the good news for last.

  • The website doesn’t look fancy. If that’s what you are looking for you will be disappointing. No neat web 2.0 style gradients or shiny surfaces there. Just plain oldskool solid HTML. But look further for a way to fix that.
  • If you’re not a geek, you might find it hard to manage your content. The easiest way IMO is uploading files using FTP. You can use the web interface for single files, or for smaller files, but you need to use FTP when your files are over 100 MB. There’s also a nice Creative Commons Publisher tool as an alternative to FTP that looks pretty easy to upload content with. I didn’t use it because I wanted more control over the uploading process (bandwidth throttling mainly).

And now, on to the good stuff!

  • Free bandwidth. They host your files, and you don’t have to pay a cent for it.
  • Free web space. You can upload a huge amount of files, with a huge size, and it’s all free free free.
  • Embed your files on your own site or blog. So you can make it as fancy as you want, without spending a single byte on bandwidth. They even have a flash applet you can use. You can also link to the links they provide for streaming. No problem.
  • After uploading a FLAC of WAV file, the system automatically encodes your files into a variety of commonly used audio formats such as mp3 and ogg, at several bit rates. That way, people with low bandwidth can choose to tune in to the 64kbps stream, or download only the lower bit rate versions. Others can opt for the high quality original FLAC file, but no matter what you don’t have to bother with doing these tedious conversions yourself. In case of video, we’re talking conversions to DivX, MPEG and QuickTime format. You can also opt not to do this, if you like.
  • Feedback: people can leave comments, and apply a rating. You get an email when someone leaves a comment, so you don’t need to check yourself. But you probably will anyway. I do.
  • Your downloads are counted. Stats!!! I love em.
  • Artwork, CD covers, text, whatever you feel should be published as extras, it’s up to you.
  • Work out your own concept. Want to publish a single file, an EP or a full blown album? No problem. You can even set up a net label .
  • Your stuff is indexed in the archive.org search engine, making your findable not only on their own site, but it’s quickly indexed in Google as well. Oh, and probably in those other search engines as well, but who’s using those right?
  • You content is updateable. Now this one is really handy. Whatever you put up there, you can update it afterwards, add new files, or delete files. Nothing is permanent, so whatever screw up is in there, it doesn’t have to be in there forever.
  • Which brings us to the next point. It’s there forever! Well, that’s the idea behind the whole archive anyway. You put stuff up there for future generations, and they make sure it doesn’t get lost. Like a big internet library.
  • The Internet Archive isn’t controlled by a commercial company either. It’s a non profit organisation working on donations, so you don’t have to fear that sudden policy changes will require you to cough up cash to keep your files hosted. You’re free to donate however, in case you have some money lying around.

Most of these above points also work for other formats such as video and even text, as they are quite flexible over at archive.org you know. But since I don’t have any experience with those, I focused on audio in this post.

As you can see, Archive.org has a lot more to offer than most other free file hosts. You have to own the content you publish of course, and be prepared to license it under a Creative Commons license. But then again, if you are thinking about publishing something on the internet, it makes sense to use some sort of CC license.

hosting your own site made easier

Colourful thinking by JudeHosting your own site has its advantages. The feeling of being in total control is sweet, but it also means you have to roll out your own updates, and tweak your own settings. For geeks like us (You’re a geek right? Why would you be reading this otherwise?) this is all part of the fun. Boys and their toys. Hmmm.

But then at some point, after much tweaking and scripting, for some reason you have to move your stuff over to a new site. Either you decided to change hosts, or your host decided you have to move to a new and faster machine, but the result remains the same. You have to redo your configuration and reinstall your site. Heck, maybe you just want to run a local backup of your site for testing purposes. Sounds professional doesn’t it? That will surely impress the ladies! Well, maybe not.

Anyway, whenever this thing happens, you might end up having a hard time figuring out what the sodding hell you did in the past. It’s only natural as your brain buries older stuff deeper in your grey matter as it feels it doesn’t need it any more. Silly brain. It can take some serious pondering to bring that stuff back up from the depths of your neural pathways I tell you, but there is an easier solution. Yes, you could keep a short list of settings you changed, software you installed (and it’s settings), email addresses you configured, or whatever other stuff you configured.

A list like this will make sure you don’t forget to configure anything important. Consider it an installation check-list, which you can run over after you moved from one machine to another, making sure you won’t forget a thing. You probably will, but this list makes it a hell of a lot easier to figure out what it is. Unless you forgot to update it. Which would suck.

Anyway, interesting things to keep track of are:

  • Sub-domains you created, and where they are pointing at.
  • Email addresses or mailboxes you’ve created, and any forward rules you set on them. Not getting your emails any more makes you feel unpopular, and that ain’t fun.
  • Folders that need specific permissions for apps to work (Your WordPress backup folder on a Windows host for instance).
  • Source or script changes you made to adjust to your current hosting situation. Did you use a machine name somewhere in a script?
  • Changes to your .htaccess file on a Linux machine.
  • Etc…

Can you remember out of the naked head what needs to be done to setup your site?
If not, a list like this might be something for you.

Photo by Jude, cc-licensed.

pros and cons of hosting your own site

Willow and the MacThe way I see it, you have two good and one bad option to host your own website or blog. I’ll start with the bad one so we get that over with, which is hosting your site from a machine running at home over your DSL or cable connection. It’s cool if you want to show something to a friend or two, but unless you’re planning on running a dedicated server on a serious pipe this is a plan bound to fail sooner or later.
Don’t get me wrong. This could work, but you’ll have to throw a lot of money at it for it to be as reliable as a paid-for host. That’s what they are about after all.

So then there’s two ways to do it right. One way it to host your site at a free host, like blogger.com, wordpress.com or any other blogging platform out there. The other is to get in touch with a hosting company, decide on a formula, and get it running yourself by installing your own software. That’s what this post is about. One of the cons is already obvious, so I’ll start (again) with the bad news of hosting your own blog or site:

Cons:

  • You’ll gonna have to pay for it. Yep. Unless you want unreliable, cheap-ass hosting at Brinkster, you’re going to have to pay for it. So if über-cheap is what you are looking for, you should probably go for something big and reliable like blogger or wordpress.com. Nothing wrong with that btw. There’s lot’s of good stuff on those hosts in my rss reader.
  • You’re going to be in charge of installing it yourself. If you’re a geek, this is a pro however. I love playing with new software and setting stuff up. I got all excited about installed WP on my site like it was the day before a trip to the zoo. Silly me. You might find people willing to do this for you however. But that will probably cost you. Unless you look like Jessica Alba. But I guess chances are slim you’d be reading this if you do.
  • You’re going to be in charge or maintaining it yourself. If you’re a geek, this is another pro. But then again, sometimes even the geek inside has one of those off-days where you don’t feel like getting down to the nitty-gritty of yet another forum or blog software security patch or upgrade. You’ll have to do it though, or the chances of getting PWN3D by some no-good piece of spam lord is getting bigger and bigger every day.

Now let’s go on, and list some of the reasons why you’d want to live with those cons in the first place.

Pros:

  • You have your own site. If you went all the way, you even have your own domain name now. I recommend you to do this, and if you’re lucky it come with the hosting package for free. That used to be über-cool, nowadays it’s just cool. If you have a lot of non-geek friends they will be impressed. Or they will be staring at you, and not really getting what you are talking about. Never mind then.
  • You’re in control. You decide what software you install and how you build your own site. You’ll have to decide about this before you start hosting though, because your demands will determine the kind of hosting package you’ll be needing. PHP, ASP, dot Net, MySQL, whatever it is, you can get it. So make sure you know what the requirements are before you sign for that hosting deal.
  • Unlimited email addresses. You usually get these with your hosting too. This can be fun, and quite useful at times. Instead of having to create some fake gmail address as a cesspool for any kind of subscription that might be turn into a spam-gate you can create as much dummy addresses as you like with this. One thing that’s really handy is the fact that in most cases all email that gets sent to your domain gets delivered to the admin address. This means you don’t even need to create a specific email address to be able to use it. Something like .spam@yourdomain.net works without creating. Simply filter on all the spam addresses in your email software (or gmail) and you’re done. Forever. Which brings us to the next pro.
  • You have a place on the net forever. If you keep paying in time that is, so don’t forget. But with a domain of your own, you can rest assured you don’t have to worry about moving ISP’s again since you’re email address doesn’t have to change. Ever. Again. Sweet!
    Forwarding your email is usually an option, so you can just forward it to your favourite web mail host. Gmail. Yeah, I know. It rawks.
  • Access to your HTTP log files. At least, check if this is included in your hosting deal. Log access is so geeky, and so much fun to check what kind of traffic your site gets. Satisfy the stat-whore inside by running AWStats on your log files. It allows you to make some fun discoveries sometimes.
    It also kills the need for all kinds of free-tracker button clutter on your pages. Which is nice.

So, that’s about all I can think of. If you know any more pros or cons, feel free to use the comments!

Photo by Matt Zimmerman, cc-licensed.