That is all.
I have an urge to rant on something, or blog about something entertaining. Unfortunately I’m coming up blank on interesting topics.
You win this time, blog.
[Shameless plug alert!]
After becoming completely fed up with GoDaddy and its complete lack of options for “power users” (if you can call my web dabblings that), I sent them some angry feedback (I wish I’d saved it, it was quite good), cancelled my hosting, and decided to look for alternates.
Having recently started dabbling in Django, a key factor in my search was that the hosting should support running Django applications (something which GoDaddy failed at, incidentally). It didn’t take long for me to stumble across WebFaction. Their plans, while slightly more expensive than GoDaddy’s (in the order of ~$2 more per month), appeared to offer far more than I was getting with my old hosting.
And so I elected to sign up and give them a shot! And so far it’s not a decision that I regret in the slightest! Some reasons I like WebFaction:
- Their control panel is actually usable, does exactly what you’d expect of it, and offers a great level of control. Setting up new domains and “applications” (the name WebFaction gives to individual server daemons) is completely intuitive, I could jump straight in and set up everything that I needed.
- The data and bandwidth allowances are well and truly enough for the couple low-volume websites that I run. Performance is fine (aside from the odd hiccup, pages are generally very fast to load).
- It might as well be a VPS for the freedoms they give you; you can create as many shell accounts as you want, and install/run what you like on them from your home directory. You’re only limited by memory. The configurability that having shell access affords, is of course invaluable.
- One-click installers for applications and databases had my Django instance up and running in around 10 minutes. That’s pretty much unprecedented, it took significantly longer for me on my own development machine to manually configure Python/Apache/etc.
All in all, if you’re a power user, and you’re prepared to pay the extra $1-2 over budget hosting, you won’t regret it!
(And why I think it should lay down and die, just as much as I think IE6 should).
Scalable Inman Flash Replacement (or sIFR), for those wondering, is a popular method for replacing plain text in a website, with custom fonts that a user may not have installed. It is typically employed in headings, or on buttons, where a custom font can add interest or “pizazz” to an otherwise mundane page.
The problem I have with it lies in its execution. Here’s why I think it is a scourge on the earth, and should be cleansed at first opportunity:
- It uses Flash. This is a bad idea for so many reasons.
- First (and most obvious), it requires the user to actually have Flash installed to see the better fonts. If they don’t have Flash installed, they don’t see the page to its full potential.
- Some power users will choose to selectively enable Flash in websites, to avoid advertisements and the like, and these users will not see your headings. Ad blockers may block your headings by default.
- Being an embedded Flash movie, it’s a completely different entity to the rest of your page. While the creators of sIFR have cleverly included the ability to select text within the Flash movie, as soon as you try to continue your selection further down the page, you find your selection frustratingly stuck inside the heading. If you begin your selection outside the heading and select over the heading, then you can copy and paste with some success, but it feels clunky and unusable.
- Did I mention it was Flash?
- If you’re placing a link against the text, you lose browser features such as being able to right-click the link (instead you get the Flash right-click menu), or middle-click to open in a new tab.
- Facelift (FLIR) is essentially the same as sIFR, but instead of replacing text with a Flash movie, it is replaced with a dynamically-generated image. Genius! (Not really, it just looks like it alongside the retardation that is sIFR). The only caveat is that you need to have the ability to run PHP scripts on your webserver, and have GD2 installed. It will even cache the images for you, so you’re not generating a new image on every page view. The only drawback I’ve seen, is that there can be a visible delay in image replacement, while the browser grabs the image files from the servers. However, after first load, these images will be cached, both on the server, and in the user’s browser.
If you have the ability to run a PHP backend, I’d suggest using Facelift (I’m a fan of the elegance of using images, which is essentially what would be used if you were to manually craft the headings yourself), otherwise Cufón is pretty great too. Whatever you do, don’t touch sIFR or Flash with a ten-foot pole!