Europe, here we come!

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It took a lot of preparation but I’m happy to announce that we are now offering hosting in Europe (in Amsterdam to be exact). If your websites’ visitors are mostly in Europe then you might want to consider putting your sites on our European servers rather than our American servers.

When you sign up for an account you can now choose between USA or Europe for the server location (note that the Europe location is not available for our managed dedicated servers just yet).

If you’re an existing customer you can also go to Account->Upgrade/downgrade in the panel and order an extra plan in Europe if you want one.

Plans on our European servers are the same price as on our American servers.

As an indication of the overhead difference here is the output of ping from London, UK to one of our servers in Texas (first server) and another one in Amsterdam (second server):

$ ping web207.webfaction.com
[...]
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
    Minimum = 153ms, Maximum = 189ms, Average = 163ms

$ ping web208.webfaction.com
[...]
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
    Minimum = 34ms, Maximum = 52ms, Average = 43ms
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New control panel theme and domain management interface

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As you might have noticed we rolled out a new control panel theme today:

New panel theme

Apart from the style everything is the same as before except for a new domain management interface which is the same as the beta control panel we release in March:

New domain management interface

Over the next few months we will gradually replace sections of the control panel with easier and faster ways to do things (similar to the new domain management interface), as well as adding new features to do things that weren’t possible before.

We originally planned on building a separate control panel while keeping the old control panel available. But we realized that having just one panel means that we can keep making improvements faster because we don’t have to support two different ways of doing the same things.

While we have a lot of ideas for making the panel easier to use we’re also keen to hear from you about what you think would make the panel better so don’t hesitate to click on “Feedback” inside the panel to send us suggestions. We will reply to each suggestion and either implement it or explain to you why we prefer not to.

PS: Note that the panel is now available at https://my.webfaction.com but all old URLs under https://panel.webfaction.com still work and just get redirected to the new URLs.

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[Position filled] We’re hiring: Support engineer for the US day shift

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[March 4, 2011: This position has been filled.]

We’re currently looking for a support engineer for the US day shift. Read on if you’re interested in joining our team!

Job Location

Anywhere in the world. This is a telecommuting position. You need to be able to work from ~5PM GMT to ~3am GMT (US day shift), 5 days on, 3 days off.

Job Activities

You will be the be the first line of contact for our customers, primarily via our online support ticketing system but also on our blogs and forums. Your job will be to answer their questions, fix their problems and generally leave them with a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

This is a real problem solving position. Sure, there are some questions which are asked repeatedly, but we’ve eliminated most of them and are working on the rest. That means that most of what’s left are one-offs which require real thought not just a standard response. We need someone who will enjoy attacking a problem and learning whatever technical skills they need to solve it.

You’ll also perform customer service duties such as setting up new accounts, canceling closed accounts, and responding to pre-sales inquiries.

You’ll be well-supported while you’re learning about our systems but this is a telecommuting position so you will need to be able to work under your own initiative, learn quickly and be the sort of person who asks for help when you need it.

Requirements

  • A friendly demeanor, excellent customer service skills and genuine desire to help solve customers’ problems.
  • Excellent command of written and spoken English
  • This position is telecommuting only. You must have your own place to work from including permanent and reliable Internet access.
  • Must be self-motivating.
  • Familiarity with Linux systems. You don’t need to be an expert but you need to know the basics and be willing to learn.
  • Flexibility with regards to your working hours. This position may include some work outside of normal business hours and at the weekend.

Bonus Extras (nice to have, but not required)

  • Experience with troubleshooting Linux systems including tools such as Apache, Postfix, Bind, etc.
  • Experience with database systems such as MySQL or PostgreSQL.
  • Experience with one or more web development frameworks or tools such as Django, Rails, Zope/Plone, WordPress, Drupal, etc. (This is not a development position, but we do support customers who develop with these tools.)

Salary

This is an hourly position. Your hourly wage is based on your location and experience.

How to Apply

Send an email to jobs@webfaction.com with the name of the job you’re applying for in the subject line. Attach a copy of your resume/CV in PDF, HTML, RTF or text format. In particular please don’t send Word documents. In the body of email tell us a bit about yourself and explain why we would be mad not to hire you.

(This info is also available on our jobs page.)

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WebFaction turns 7, new hosting plan available!

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I can’t believe it’s already been 7 years since we registered python-hosting.com which later became WebFaction.
We’ve come a long way since 7 years ago and we have lots of exciting announcements for the next few months.

Here is the first one:

From today we are replacing our four shared hosting plans with a unique hosting plan and a few add-ons.
The new plan is the same price as the former “Shared 1” plan but it comes with a massive 100GB of storage and extra memory is cheaper than before. See features & prices for the new plan details.

The new plan is only available on our latest servers (Web173 and over) which means that it’s available for all new customers and all existing customers willing to move their data to one of these new servers. We would love to make the new plan available on all of our servers but unfortunately servers before Web173 don’t have enough disk space to be able to cope.

Here is to a good start to 2011!

Update: We didn’t anticipate such demand from existing customers for the new plan and at this rate we’ll run out of servers soon. To prevent that existing customers will only be able to get the new plan this time next week (by then we’ll have provisioned enough servers).

Update: The new plan is now available to existing customers.

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Drupal 7 is here!

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After weeks of testing, Drupal 7 has arrived and so has our latest one-click installer:

Drupal 7 installer in the control panel

Drupal 7 is a major update to the popular content management system. It has a host of new improvements, such as:

  • Web-based theme and module updates
  • Security improvements, like better resistance to brute-force password guessing
  • Improved database layer, including transaction and SQLite support
  • Better performance on uncached pages and for logged-in users

Perhaps the biggest change, however, is Drupal’s revamped administrative interface, which features a simplified overlay with a handy shortcut bar to make common actions readily available (click to enlarge):

Drupal 7's new admin

Of course, that’s not all that this release of Drupal has in store; for an exhaustive look at what’s changed in Drupal 7, take a look at the release notes. When you’re ready to dive in, give the one-click installer a try. And, if you have any questions, don’t forget join us in the Q&A Community.

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New twitter account for status updates

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We now have a new twitter account for status updates: http://twitter.com/wfstatus
This will be a mirror of our status blog at http://statusblog.webfaction.com

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Speed-up your pages with mod_pagespeed

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Last week Google released two new tools to help people make their websites faster.

The first one is a Firefox extension called “Page Speed” which gives you a performance analysis of the website you’re viewing as well as lots of tips on how you can make the website faster if you’re the website owner.

The second one is an Apache module called “mod_pagespeed”. Enabling it in Apache causes Apache to analyze the resources it’s serving and optimize them on the fly before serving them. We have installed mod_pagespeed on all of our servers (except web1-web20 which run rhel4). It is disabled by default for all websites but if you are using a static app all you have to do to enable mod_pagespeed for your website is to add this line to your .htaccess file (or create a new .htaccess file if you don’t have one yet):

ModPagespeed On
SetOutputFilter MOD_PAGESPEED_OUTPUT_FILTER

If you’re using a Django app or any other app that comes with your own Apache instance you can also easily enable mod_pagespeed like this (assuming your app is called “django” and your username is “username“):

mkdir -p $HOME/mod_pagespeed/cache/ $HOME/mod_pagespeed/files
cd $HOME/webapps/django/apache2/modules
cp /usr/lib/httpd/modules/mod_pagespeed_ap24.so .
vi ../conf/httpd.conf # Or another editor if you think "vi" is too simple...
    # add the following:
    LoadModule pagespeed_module modules/mod_pagespeed_ap24.so
    ModPagespeed on
    SetOutputFilter MOD_PAGESPEED_OUTPUT_FILTER
    ModPagespeedFileCachePath            "/home/username/mod_pagespeed/cache/"
    # save and exit
cd ../bin; ./restart

Note that if you’re using Apache-2.2 the module’s path is /usr/lib/httpd/modules/mod_pagespeed.so

If you’re using your own Apache instance you can also configure which filters you want to enable or disable. If you’re using a static/php/cgi or a php-based app like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla then it is not currently possible to configure which filters you want because the current version of mod_pagespeed doesn’t seem to support filter configuration per virtual hosts. For these apps you will be using the default “core filters” chosen by Google. These are:

  • add_head: adds a head to the document if it encounters a <body> tag before finding a <head> tag.
  • combine_css: replaces multiple distinct CSS files with a single CSS file, containing the contents of all of them.
  • rewrite_css: parses referenced and inline CSS and minifies them.
  • rewrite_javascript: parses referenced and inline javascript code and minifies it.
  • inline_css: reduces the number of requests made by a web page by inserting the contents of small external CSS resources directly into the HTML document.
  • inline_javascript: reduces the number of requests made by a web page by inserting the contents of small external JavaScript resources directly into the HTML document.
  • rewrite_images: rescales, and compresses images; inlines small ones.
  • insert_img_dimensions: inserts width= and height= attributes into <img> tags that lack them and sets them to the image width and height.
  • extend_cache: rewrites the URL references in the HTML page to include a hash of the resource content. Thus if the site owner changes the resource content, then the URL for the rewritten resource will also change.

For the official docs on mod_pagespeed and its filters see http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/docs/using_mod.html

Enjoy the new mod_pagespeed and let us know if you notice any difference in the loading time for your pages.

Update: Be aware that mod_pagespeed is still in beta and therefore might have some bugs. In particular we’ve had reports saying that it can saturate the number of Apache processes available for your site and cause some requests to hang. We’ll roll-out future versions as Google release them but in the mean time if mod_pagespeed is causing problems for your particular site the best thing to do is to just not enable it for your site for now.

Update 1 August 2011: Removed deprecated ModPagespeedUrlPrefix directive.

Update 24 August 2015: mod_pagespeed is no longer on by default – you must use “ModPagespeed On” in your .htaccess to activate it (see above).

Update 16 June 2016: For CentOS 6 and CentOS 7 servers, the paths to the mod_pagespeed modules are:

  • /usr/lib64/httpd/modules/mod_pagespeed_ap24.so
  • /usr/lib64/httpd/modules/mod_pagespeed.so

Update 12 July 2017: Almost all customers have been migrated to CentOS7 and Apache 2.4, so the Django docs have been updated:

  • LoadModule pagespeed_module modules/mod_pagespeed_ap24.so
  • Removed deprecated ModPagespeedGeneratedFilePrefix option
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Welcome to our shiny new blog

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As you might have noticed we’ve moved our blog to this shiny new WordPress-based blog.
This will be the new home for lots of exciting announcements …

PS: For the nostalgics our old posts are available at http://blog1.webfaction.com

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