Smithsonian Channel Press Site

Smithsonian Channel Press Site
Smithsonian Channel Press Site

We (under Glyph Media, Inc.) develop and maintain press and internal sites for the Smithsonian Networks which is a joint venture between CBS Corporation’s SHOWTIME Networks and the Smithsonian Institution.

Press sites are used by print and broadcast companies when making their features and are not usually public domain.

No to 1and1

No to 1and1. Choose a better host.
No to 1and1. Choose a better host. (Image grabbed from www.rehosted.net)

Just a quick rant about 1and1.com. This is the hosting provider used by the company I work for. And I have been vocal about my problems with their service. However, I don’t see them transferring to another provider anytime soon.

One word to describe 1and1 is “terrible.” Very slow and often useless tech support (that I am ashamed to admit is done here in my country); inconsistent and unreliable service; also often blacklisted for email spam. Not to mention the time that this domain got disabled because I turned off auto-renewal and they took their sweet time allowing the transfer to another domain registrar (Hostgator).

Recently, I have been working on a media site for a well-known US TV network, and our task was to automate posting of video clips to their websites and their media server (Brightcove). I got stuck with a terrible bug for two days because my script ran on the browser but it misbehaved when in the terminal. The script has to be called by CRON so it needed to run via command line.

It turns out they use different versions of PHP: 4.4.9 in bash and 5.x for web. I couldn’t believe it.

Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act

Black Out
In protest of the Cybercrime Prevention Act

Philippine social networks are ablaze with activity nowadays. It was initially about the actions of a certain misguided senator related to the RH Bill. Now it’s the approval, insertion of the libel clause (by the same senator), and impending enactment of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

Not going too much into detail about the law and the people involved. There’s enough of it floating around the Internet that a simple search would give one a lot of references from EFF, Forbes, Mashable, and the like. It is enough to say that it would certainly impact freedom of expression as certain provisions are vague and open to a differing interpretations. It is also a complete disregard of a UN resolution (while non-binding, is basis for international laws) concerning Internet freedom (which coincidentally was not signed by the Philippine delegation during the deliberation).

We’re voicing our opinion as part of the Philippine startup community, while IT professionals like us work very hard to put the country on the map to attract foreign investors, our government keeps blundering and makes ill-advised decisions that cancel out our efforts. While the US has gotten rid of SOPA, PIPA and similar laws the Philippines makes a mockery of it with the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

And we could become criminals under the law for expressing our opinions.

Hating Chrome at the Moment

HTML5 <video> tag
Grabbed from sensukho.blogspot.com

Being a Chrome user since its Beta stage, I never thought I’d say something like this. But I am hating HTML5 on Chrome at the moment as it compromised one of the projects we are working on.

We’re in charge of providing members-only video preview services for PR of some TV networks and just found out that videos can be downloaded easily when using the <video> tag. It’s a documented bug that we realized here. That’s not desirable behavior especially if only Chrome (Mac for now, have not tried on Windows) allows it.

Knowing the video URL will be displayed if one views the source code of the web page, we stored the videos outside the root folder, and used a secure, members-only method to fetch them, making it harder (supposedly) to grab the videos physically. All that work for nothing!

Now we have to resort to forcing Flash to take over when Chrome is detected. Ridiculous, I know. I hope my code adjustment will not impact/hamper video playback on mobile devices.

Update:

Our project uses video.js, and there’s a way to adjust video player preference. I set Flash to be used before HTML5. Thank you Internet.

WhatG? WhoG?

Cloud
Image grabbed from www.tru-power.com

This post is prompted by the recent 4G bandwagon started by Smart Communications and Globe Telecoms. You can read a little bit about it here. This also stems from being one of the early adopters of Globe GSM in 1998. My Globe (prepaid) number is 917-905-XXXX and I still use it and remember frowning on Smart and the 918 prefix because it was still analog. And I am conditioned to having unlimited Internet access (intermittently as I moved places) since 1997.

This could become a long post about my experiences with Philippine Internet infrastructure but I will try to be short. For reference I will mention having accounts from AMA Tel (I think–unlimited dialup), Globelines (metered dialup), BellTel (cable), SmartBro (fixed antenna wireless) and PLDT (DSL). At previous jobs I have dealt with Textron (dedicated wireless) and Bayantel (leased line). I currently subscribe to PLDT’s MyDSL service and seem to be the most reliable here in our area. I can indirectly endorse it even though I hear/read people complain about the service.

Seeing the proliferation of services being offered, the most basic requirement of providing reliable Internet connection for technology events (developer/professional conventions, product launches, etc.) is still very much guesswork here or something not considered very seriously by organizers and/or their connection provider/sponsor. At a recent Google event, it was embarrassing to experience technology fail during the lecture of Maps and Places APIs by a foreign speaker. It didn’t have to be lightning fast, it just needed to work.

Which brings me to the part of mobile data connections. Even though GSM has been here for more than 15 years (via Islacom and Globe) I yet to have faith in the reliability of services being offered by current telcos. I admit to not investigating this as consistently as wired data service providers because my work does not require me to travel much. But in the past years, with the promise of 3G, I started checking out Sun and Smart prepaid services (via USB sticks). Most recently compared prepaid data services on Globe, Smart and Sun using my phones as a prelude to actually getting a postpaid data plan. However my experience is not exactly encouraging because they don’t work all the time. Prepaid service is throttled to give way to postpaid subscribers and I believe my home office location is one of least priority because it’s a lower B to D class neighborhood.

A Google study also mentions that our data communications infra problems are congestion (too many access, too little provided) and latency (travels half the world then back). Unfortunately, I have no copy of the stats but it was presented during a Google event by a Google officer on his Emerging Markets talk.

With the frustration I feel, I considered developing an application to investigate on mobile services here. It would collect data from users and map which parts have GPRS, EDGE, 3G, etc., and allow them to visually represent their experience. I initially presented this idea during Android DevCamp. It also did not sell well during Startup Weekend as they said it will only be interesting to the NTC and data communications professionals. I have put this on hold but I will revisit the project soon with a better approach.

Now is a very good time for the application as Globe and Smart finally started this 4G brouhaha and PLDT’s soon launching its fiber network. My biggest challenge will be to identify who will champion my idea aside from myself.

Some Hostgator Woes

HostgatorI know, it’s been a while. This is a post about recent problems with Hostgator related to their web hosting services.

I’ve been happy with them since I subscribed but it seems recently they’ve been giving me problems. The first problem was when they did an “emergency maintenance” on the server where my sites are hosted. My account (and sites, therefore) were inaccessible for an hour at least (could be longer, since I only counted the time since I discovered it). And I had to contact support twice. First to report and know what’s going on, and second to follow up and “reset” the account. My only request was to be informed about server maintenance whether emergency or not.

The second one is apparently an ongoing one related to the script inside the cPanel dashboard, particularly the Hotlink Protection tool under Security, that caused images not to display. And if you access the image URLs directly you get a 403 (Access Forbidden) error.

Initially I thought it was just a need to chmod or chown my files so I contacted support to have them do it for me. When that didn’t work, a support ticket was created. At this point I realized it might have something to do with .htaccess, similar to what I had before when I used Hotlink Protection. One Hostgator admin wrote back with this:

Hello,

http://www.noelacosta.com had an issue with the .htaccess file that was causing the images to get 403 errors. I removed 2 duplicate lines near the bottom that were rewriting the urls for the images. If there is anything else we can do for you, or if you have any questions, please let us know.

The new one looks like this:
root@gator535 /home/ncacosta/public_html/noelacosta.com/blog]# cat .htaccess
RewriteEngine on

Options -Indexes
# BEGIN WordPress

# END WordPress
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^blog.noelacosta.com$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.blog.noelacosta.com$
RewriteRule ^/?$ "http\:\/\/www\.noelacosta\.com" [R=301,L]

The old one:
[root@gator535 /home/ncacosta/public_html/noelacosta.com/blog]# cat .htaccess.orig
RewriteEngine on

Options -Indexes
# BEGIN WordPress

# END WordPress
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^blog.noelacosta.com$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.blog.noelacosta.com$
RewriteRule ^/?$ "http\:\/\/www\.noelacosta\.com" [R=301,L]

RewriteRule .*\.(jpg|jpeg|gif|png|bmp)$ - [F,NC]

RewriteRule .*\.(jpg|jpeg|gif|png|bmp)$ - [F,NC]

True enough, when I accessed all other domains in my account, these lines were added by Hostgator’s cPanel script. I asked them to remove them for me and pointed out that they should look into their script.

Lesson for me is not to use shortcuts in hotlink protection and just study how to create my own .htaccess directives.

GoDaddy & SOPA/PIPA

SOPA VENN DIAGRAM
SOPA VENN DIAGRAM (from Visual News)

We’ve experienced a flurry of activity regarding SOPA/PIPA the past days and was further punctuated by the case of media sharing site MegaUpload.

NAMELESS.PH has used GoDaddy for years as our domain registrar and was okay about them because of their reasonable prices. (Also have Name.com a secondary registrar.) However, there are some cases of seemingly misogynistic comments of the CEO and that unjustifiable hunting sport episode. These kind of dampened my enthusiasm for GoDaddy and the final nail in the coffin was its support of SOPA. Although they retracted their initial statement after customer uproar and loss of clients, we have decided to transfer NAMELESS.PH administered domains to another registrar.

Namecheap.com is starting to look good.