Mac OS X 10.5.7 and iMac Lock-Ups

Ever since I installed the OS X 10.5.7 update my iMac has been completely freezing up after a few hours of use, and I’m not the only one as indicated by this thread. Some people were able to fix the problem with some of the recommended solutions, but like Jeff Zeldman I was unable to get them to work for me and OS X 10.5.7 remained nearly unusable` for me.

I had upgraded my MacBook without incident although I was not able to test it for very long since soon after it lost it’s battle with coffee. I also didn’t have a problem with my Mac Mini. Both of those were updated through software update. Since the update was so large I decided to download the file and run it manually on my iMac. It didn’t help. Within two hours of the update my first lockup occurred. I should point out that by the time I got around t0 OS X 10.5.7 there were a bunch of additional updates. I did the OS X 10.5.7 first, from the combo updater and did some minor testing. Then I did the updates that didn’t require a reboot followed by those that did, all through software update.

Luckily I had put off updating my iMac since I didn’t have time to deal with any problems and didn’t want to take a chance. Well, today I had enough and I’m in the process of flattening my iMac and re-installing everything from scratch. Something I hoped to put off until my Snow Leopard update in September.

I realize that every software vendor has problems at times. But I switched from Microsoft to Apple back when it seemed I was spending more time keeping my Windows machines running than actually using them. In thinking about this I’ve noticed a bit of change in my attitude. My Windows PCs, with one exception, are now all set to apply updates from Microsoft automatically without needing my approval. That one exception is the Windows 7 PC I’m using now. That one is set to notify me but I routinely apply the patches the same day I’m notified. For my iMac I now hold off applying updates until I have the time I may need to recover. Granted, there’s a difference in priorities. My Windows PCs are expendable as I us most for testing and playing but it would still be a hassle to recover from a crash. While my iMac is used daily.

I’m definitely at a low point in my Mac love, but I have to wonder if it’s time to reconsider Windows for my primary machine and move the Mac to special cases. If the rebuild goes well and things just work I may look back on this and wonder what I was thinking. Or, Windows 7 could be my future.

Western Digital 2TB Prices Drop – WHS Grows

Screenshot of disk usage before the upgrade As hard as it is for me to fathom, my 12TB Windows Home Server grew to 13TB back in April, just two months after the initial build. Now, less than 2 months after that I was running low on disk space again.

When I built the server I figured the disk would last me awhile. I hadn’t intended to turn on file duplication and instead rely on backups, giving me lots of space. Well, since I had the space I did turn on file duplication, figuring I’d turn it off when I needed the space. I’ve come to realize that due to the amount of data and the number of physical disks I have I’ve become dependent on file duplication to avoid an extended outage.

I have over 5TB of non-duplicated data on the server. If I need to restore that it’s going to take a lot of time, especially if I need to figure out which files went bad or need replacing. With 12 physical disks in the WHS there’s a lot of potential for hardware failure. In fact, my April upgrade was the result of needing to replace a bad hard disk anyway. That April disk failure and the limited down time thanks to file duplication convinced me to keep it. Not only was the down time minimal I didn’t have to babysit anything.

If you click the thumbnail up top you’ll see what my disk usage was up to. I had about 1.5 TB free which is a lot of space. But I didn’t want to add hard disk, I wanted to replace an existing disk in order to avoid the expense of adding additional controllers. This meant that I need at least 1TB to accommodate temporarily holding the files on the drive being removed. I could add an external USB drive as a temporary solution but that would be extremely slow due to USB speeds (compared to sata).

So I started watching hard drive prices. When I upgraded in April the Western Digital 2TB drive was $300. When I checked a couple weeks ago it was $250 but I was desperate so decided to wait since the longer I waited the lower the price would go. Then last week the price dropped to $230 with free shipping. While not specifically marked as a limited time special it was listed as a special savings off the original price but I suspect this will be permanent drop.

Sure, waiting even longer could lead to a lower price as the price will drop again, but I decided to go for it, figuring it would be a month or so before another drop.

The replacement wasn’t any different than previous drive replacements.

1. Run the drive removal wizard for the drive I want to remove. The indispensable add-in Windows Home Server Disk Management which makes identifying the disk location easy. This can take some time since it’s basically a file copy. I did it overnight so can’t say how long it took, but the drive I removed was 98% full. As I said previously, if your using a USB drive it will take longer since USB is slower.

2. Remove the physical disk and pop the new one in.

3. Run the add-disk wizard to add the new disk.

4. At this time the files aren’t very well distributed across the drives and the system drive is also heavily used. Rather than let the OS try to sort things out or try to find an add-on to do it I disable file duplication. It takes awhile for the system to clean up the space used my the duplicated files. I should note, I do have a complete backup in the event a drive does fail.

5. Then I turned file duplication back on. It takes awhile to duplicate everything. In my case it was over 12 hours but the server was usable and performed well during that time.

One last note on disk capacity. I’m calling this a 14TB server because if I add up the manufacturer capacity for all the hard drives it’s 14TB. (Ten 1TB and Two 2TB) But since OS’s measure capacity differently and there’s overhead in the formatting there’s actually 13TB usable. There’s 931GB usable for every 1TB the manufacturer gives me so the overhead does add up.

Let’s see if I can go more than two months without having to add yet another drive. Here’s what the disk usage looks like now (click the image for full size):

Leo Laporte vs. Mike Arrington

I have to admit, this is really funny. I have to admit, I like Leo and I recently removed TechCrunch from my feeds and stopped visting the site mainly because of Arrington and his constant trolling. So I’m with Leo on this. Just a warning that the language is a bit stronger than usually used on this site.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsV-lgnAjps&w=425&h=344]

Domain Registrar Roundup – Part 2

Mouse on the web graphicIn Part 1 of the domain registrar roundup I covered the three registrar services I used when I started out.  In this part I’ll cover NameCheap, Godaddy, Enom and Moniker.

Godaddy

Godaddy is the 800-lb gorilla in the industry, according to WebHosting.info they have a 27% market share, well ahead of the second place Enom that’s at 8%. Being so large, a search for “Godaddy Sucks” on Google will yield over 5,000 results. On the other hand Godaddy was the top rated registrar in the most recent Domain Name Wire registrar survey.

Godaddy is also the Walmart of web hosting and associated services. If you can’t handle a website with lots of self-promotion then Godaddy’s not for you. I did find the number of outright ads and up-sells to have become less frequent recently when I use the management consoles. I don’t know if that’s a policy change or just my experience. Any purchase or product browsing is still a flood of ads and up-sell offers but they do seem to have declined in the management consoles.

There’s always some sort of deal available at Godaddy. Once your a customer most emails you get from them will include coupon codes. You’ll also find coupon codes in ads (I see a lot in podcasts I listen to) and by searching Google. You may have to try various coupon codes to see which gives you the best deal and in most cases coupons won’t work if your using some other discount. In general, domain names from Godaddy will probably be 7 to 8 dollars for new domains or transfers-in although their list price for a .com domain is $10.69. Almost everything is an add-on although in many cases they are thrown in for free or as part of some semi-permanent special offer. It can be a bit difficult to figure out the best deal from Godaddy or make sure you have the best coupon codes without going through the checkout process and trying each code.

Really, the only reasons I found not to use Godaddy was their business practices. You need to read their default selections as you go through their purchase process to make sure your not getting more than you want. They do allow you to modify some settings to set some defaults and avoid many of their numerous screens through the checkout process. At times I do feel like using Godaddy is like running a gauntlet.

The one real problem I have with them is their policy on whois changes. If you update whois contact information you are required to agree to a 60-day transfer lock on your domain during which time you can’t transfer it out. Because ICANN prevents any sort of mandatory lock outside the first 60 days of a registration Godaddy positions this as an opt-in choice, yet if you want to make the change you must agree. They position this as a security measure, but 60 days is more than what’s needed for security purposes. I find this to be deceptive which makes me think twice about their other practices. I’d probably be OK with it if they didn’t claim it was opt-in.

Their Domain Manager is very web 2.0-ish with lots of Ajax popups when prompting for information. Because of this the interface feels like it’s plodding along but it never really slows down. It just never feels snappy, but the performance is acceptable.

They also provide complete DNS configuration and I had no problem adding MX, CName, TXT and other records along with URL redirects. They also allow “profiles” to be setup and when a domain is added to the profile it inherits the settings of the profile. Attributes that can be set include: domain lock (on/off), auto renew (on/off), url forwarding, whois contact info, and name servers. If you set the contact info in a profile you’ll be forced to agree to the previously mentioned 60 day lock when adding a domain to the profile even if there’s no actual change from the previous setting. These profiles make it easy to enforce certain settings or make changes to a large number of domains at once.

Their domain manager also provides the ability to create folders and provides a good search tool to find domains that meet certain criteria besides just a name search. Of all the registrars I’ve looked at I’d say Godaddy has the best tools for managing a large number of domains.

I haven’t had any problems transferring domains out of Godaddy. The unlock can be done through their domain manager. The authorization code is sent via email but I consistently received it within minutes of requesting it through their domain manager.

I have used Godaddy support via email to ask questions and the response was always within 24 hours although the responses from Namecheap were faster. I haven’t had an actual problem that needed resolution.

NameCheap

Namecheap has become my current registrar of choice and I’ve been moving domains from Godaddy to Namecheap, especially in May where a coupon code resulted in $7 transfers. They’ve been reliable and offer a simple, straight-forward management interface.

Namecheap started out as a Enom reseller and while they are now ICANN accredited they still seem to be reselling for Enom since many of the emails come from Namecheap via Enom. They’ve also become more of a full service domain and website provider along the lines of Godaddy. I’ve only used them for domain registration.

The registration and transfer process was fast and automated. There does seem to be a bit of a delay between some steps of the transfer process. For example, Godaddy sent me an email confirming the domain was moved from them while it took another 3 hours or so for it to be available in my Namecheap control panel. The domain was available during this time, it was simply a delay in be active in the control panel.

Domain pricing seems to be a bit on the high side with .com’s listed at $9.69 for new and transfers but I used a May discount code to get $7 transfers. New registrations were $8.81 which is a bit higher than a typical Godaddy domain after discounts but competitive. Free WhoisGuard (privacy protection) seems to be a permanent special. It has the added benefit of not being tied to any domain so you can assign it to extend protection on an old domain. They are only good for one year from purchase.

New domain registrations occur in real time and if the domain is taken between the time you start and end your order (as happened to me once) the money is immediately refunded.

Like Godaddy I asked a couple questions via their ticket system and received a response within minutes.

The management interface lacks the web 2.0 look and feel of Godaddy’s but this means it also feels quicker. It had all the features of the Godaddy domain manager although I liked the layout of the Godaddy  domain manager just a little better. It seemed to be more suited to managing a large number of domains.

The domain manager does have a bulk change option but when I tried to use it to update the MX and SFP settings for my domains they dropped some changes. I tried several times and in each case it only accepted the first 3 MX records for each domain and dropped the SPF records completely. I was able to add these records to each domain one at a time. I had no problem with bulk updates to the contact information.

While Namecheap does have a bulk edit wizard (which I had problems with) and it does have folders which allow you to organize your domains it doesn’t have anything like Godaddy’s profiles or Enom’s Magic Folders. I found the Namecheap folders a little disconnected from the domain manager. If I was editing a domain I couldn’t add it to a folder, I had to go into the manage folders interface, find the folder, then pick the domain from a list to add it. This seems like it could be cumbersome for a large number of domains. Both Godaddy and Enom allowed a domain to be added to a folder while on the manager screen for that domain.

Namecheap also offers a free DNS service, available to anyone, that can be used for domains not registered with them. I use this for several of my domains and set my domains to use it before transferring them to Namecheap in order to minimize downtime.

I’ve only been with Namecheap a couple of months and yet to try and move anything away from them. But they do seem to make it easy to move away as all the needed information is available through the domain manager although authorization codes will be sent via email. I’ll continue to move my domains to them when the coupon codes make it cost effective.

Enom

Enom has primarily been a reseller which is why it’s the second largest registrar while being relatively unknown outside the domain business. They have now begun to establish their own consumer group around “Enom Central”. Because of this fragmented reseller arrangement their pricing can be all over the place. A “Enom Central” account I received when AOL transferred my email domain to them prices new domains at $11 and transfers at $8. While a Enom reseller account I have sets the domain price at $8.95 (all prices for .com).

Enom has what they call “Magic Folders” which are similar to Godaddy’s profiles. The settings that can be configured are similar to Godaddy’s with the addition of being able to set CName, A records or URL redirects through magic folders.

The domain management interface is easy to use and logically set up. The search feature and folders make it seem like it would be easy to manage a large number of domains. Unlike Namcheap you can add a domain to a folder from the domain management screens and don’t need to go into special screens to manage folders.

Moniker

Moniker has the reputation as being the safest and most secure registrar. While they don’t seem to do discount coupons their regular .com price is about $8 although they’re currently running a sale of $7.59.

Of all the registrars I’ve looked at I find Moniker’s interface to be the hardest to navigate. There is a template manager that allows the creation of templates for DNS settings which is not something the other registrars have. But Moniker doesn’t have anything similar to Godaddy’s profiles or Enom’s Magic Folders. It appears only A, CName and MX records can be added to DNS, TXT records can’t be added.

Summary

As I mentioned earlier, Namecheap is my current registrar of choice. They have the features I need and only lack “Magic Folders”/”Profiles” that I would want. They come across as a company that wants to deliver quality customer service at a fair price. And they keep things simple.

Godaddy does have the domain manager I like the best but their constant sales, promotions and ads become tiring. It seems like a chore to keep track of or search for the coupon codes and figure out which is the best value. Their faux “opt-in” really annoys me and their business practices remind me of a used car salesmen that tries to get the maximum profit per sale by confusing the customer. They also been called out on some past business practices although in those cases they did change the way the do things.

Enom seems fine to me, I just don’t have a compelling reason to use them.

I’d probably use Moniker for my valuable domains, if I had any. I’d have to have my DNS hosted elsewhere unless the domain was just parked since the DNS is limited. But this wouldn’t be a significant problem as most web hosts (including Slicehost, which I use) offer DNS plus there are low cost third party DNS services. I may move some domains there if the price is right when renewal rolls around but I do find their interface the most confusing.

All the registrars listed here provide free domain “pushes” to other accounts in their system. This would be useful if you sell a domain. The buyer could create a free account on their system and you could push the domain to them.

This article is already exceedingly long so I’ll end it here and wrap up my domain registrar review.

Domain Registrar Roundup – Part 1

Mouse on the web graphic I’ve been looking at several domain registrars recently and have used a few in the past. I figure now would be a good time to summarize my views of each. In this article I’ll cover the registrars I’ve used in the past but not anymore. These registrars exist mostly to provide domain registration for their hosting customers.

Yahoo Small Business Web Hosting – This is where I put my first website years ago. I picked them because they had a deal with my ISP for a low monthly price (no contract) and it was a name I knew. They aren’t really in the domain name business although a domain name was included with the account. The domain name, while included with the account, was mine to keep. I had no problems transferring the domain out when I left Yahoo due to problems with WordPress on Yahoo. Yahoo’s domain pricing is a bit on the high side although a domain is included in their hosting packages which also seem to be on the high side these days. The domain renewal rare of $35/yr. after the “term expires” is outrageous compared to others. Yahoo certainly isn’t a place to keep your domains even if you use them for hosting.

1 & 1

When I transferred The OS Quest from Yahoo I transferred the domain name to 1&1. They were low cost and provide free whois privacy, both of with were important to me at the time. I didn’t have any real problems with them as my domain registrar. But, I place a lot of value in how easy a company makes it to leave them and by this measure 1&1 is an absolute disaster and I’ll avoid them in the future no matter what deals they offer.

First off, in order to turn off auto renewal for a domain you must actually go through the cancelation process for the domain and set it to cancel when the registration ends. This cancellation process was clearly designed to be annoying and require jumping through hoops.

You need to go through a different website (cancel.1and1.com) rather than the regular domain management panel. You’ll need to read the screens carefully. Then you’ll receive two emails, one with the auth codes you’ll need if you decide to transfer the domain and a second which will contain a link you’ll need to click in order to confirm the cancellation. If you don’t click the link within the specified time the domain will not be cancelled and you’ll be billed at renewal. Once you do this 1&1 will treat you like a pariah. You’ll lose the ability to manage the domain, except for transferring it out. The privacy settings will be removed and if it was enabled the contact information will be replaced with your 1&1 account contact information. So I’d recommend you remove privacy and setting the contact info you want before cancelling the domain. You’ll also be limited in the DNS changes you can make for the domain and if you used URL forwarding these settings will be locked it.

When transferring domains away from 1&1 they are at least supportive if not swift. The authorization codes are available online and the domain can be unlocked online. What they don’t do is provide anyway for you to approve the transfer. You simply wait the 5 day period allowed to cancel a transfer at the end of which the transfer is made.

Another detail that may affect you is that 1&1 doesn’t support SPF records to fight spam.

The only potential plus with 1&1 is their affiliate program which all customers are automatically enrolled in and can use when making purchases for their own account. (None of the 1&1 links in this article are affiliate links). The bottom line is I’ve moved everything away from 1&1 and won’t be going back.

Bluehost

When I left Yahoo hosting I sent my domain to 1&1 but used Bluehost for hosting. After my WordPress problems with Yahoo I picked Bluehost for hosting since they were documented to work fine (and did). A domain was included with the hosting account so I picked up a new domain. I’ve never purchased just a domain from Bluehost since $10 is a bit high.

When I started with Bluehost they were a Godaddy reseller. They’re now their own ICANN accredited registrar and they’ve added some domain management capabilities to their CPanel. Still, I’d say they’re mainly suitable for people hosting their domains there as a one-stop shop. Domains that aren’t included in their hosting package are $10 each which is a bit high. I had no problems hosting at Bluehost with domains registered elsewhere.

Unlike 1&1, transferring domain away from Bluehost was simple and fast. They provided the codes and unlock online and the transfer was immediate after the necessary approvals. I didn’t have a lot of domains at Bluehost, just the ones I hosted there, but I didn’t have any problems or run into any limitations configuring mail MX and other DNS records.

Summary

Yahoo doesn’t seem to want to be in the hosting business and their prices a little high for what they seem to offer. The domain renewal rate of $35 after your initial contracted term expires (1 to 5 years) is unbelievably high.

1&1 tries to trap it’s consumers into staying with them, or at least make leaving a frustrating experience. If, like me, you like to handle domain renewals yourself rather than being surprise of a charge appears then 1&1 isn’t for you. My advice, avoid the trap and stay away. If they offer a deal, you’ll regret the pennies saved.

Bluehost is fine if you host your website with them. I’m not sure they even offer domain only accounts. I didn’t have any problems with the domains I had with them and transferring them away was a breeze.

In the next part I’ll review the domain registrars I currently use and are suitable if all you want to do is keep domains with them.