Pools: Arbitrary HTTP Servers, Resource Reservation and Scalability

We are pleased to announce that we are beginning the beta of our new “pools” service. Pools are a way to reserve memory and CPU power for one or more web sites. This approach makes it possible to discard many of the limitations traditionally associated with our service.
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A RespectMyPrivacy discount, a few UI upgrades, and Twitter?

We’ve released a minor update to our member UI with a few new features, one of which is of particular note: a 10% discount on RespectMyPrivacy service is now available in exchange for prepayment.
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File server “f1” replacement

Our venerable old file server “f1” had some problems last month that left us with some doubt as to the viability of its redundant power supplies over the long term. Since then, we’ve been planning and preparing to migrate all the sites it handles to other, newer file servers.

That’s all been prepped now, and what we’re going to do is automatically migrate everyone during the month of April. If you have affected sites, you can get a specific time for each site from our member interface, and the main sites page will star any site scheduled for an upgrade on your list of sites so you can see at a glance which sites are affected.
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Service & pricing changes finalized

Our recent announcement that we were preparing to make pricing changes provoked quite a bit of discussion that resulted in significant improvements to our plans. (Please see both links if you want more information about the rationale and justification for these changes; both have been discussed in exhaustive detail.)

Those plans have now been finalized, and we will begin phasing them in this month.
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Pricing changes incoming

NearlyFreeSpeech.NET was founded with no intention of ever turning a profit. There are no investors to pay off, no debt to service, and no short-term-focused shareholders measuring ROI with three-month horizons. NearlyFreeSpeech.NET exists because I want to provide as many people as possible with affordable hosting free of “big company” restrictions that come from pleasing investors, debtors, and shareholders. Therefore, all the fees we charge are designed to cover the costs of the resources it takes to provide the service.

One of the things we are running into with our pricing model is that the resource-based pricing we currently use doesn’t take everything into account, and doesn’t always do so accurately. That’s something we need to address.
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Small member interface upgrades

We have a few small member interface upgrades to announce.
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PHP 4: Still standing in the doorway, telling everyone it’s leaving

On January 1st of this year, developer support for PHP 4 ended; only PHP 5 is supported these days.

Our system still works with PHP 4, and we still have about 32.5% of our active hosted sites running on PHP 4. But its days are clearly numbered, so we’re taking appropriate, measured steps to curtail PHP 4 support on our network as well. We’ve removed most public references to PHP 4, and using our interface it’s no longer possible to switch a site to PHP 4, only away from it. With that done, we’re not making specific plans to go out and yank PHP 4 out from under our members whose sites are still using it before they are ready.
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CGI/ssh Upgrade

This is just a short note to reflect a couple of upgrades.

First, we have upgraded the ssh environment to more powerful hardware in order to allow for continued growth and to make sure scheduled tasks (still coming soon) will have enough resources to run without driving anybody’s site into the ground.

Second, we have updated Perl in the CGI/ssh environment from 5.8.8 to 5.8.9. Despite being a minor-version upgrade, this required the rebuild of nearly 1,000 CPAN modules and dozens of supporting libraries. Thus, we wanted to let people know to be on the lookout for resulting weirdness or incompatibilities. A few CPAN modules bought the farm on this upgrade, and we’ll list those below.
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Email forwarding follow-up

Our email forwarding upgrade has been completed! In general, it went very smoothly, with (of course) a couple of exceptions. The disruption was minimal, significantly less than expected; we were able to do a live migration of our UI to use the new backend without having to take it offline at all, and nobody was unable to manage their email forwarding for more than a few minutes. The new servers are running very well and the email processing scheme we have implemented seems to be working out.
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Email forwarding changes and UI downtime

Over the next few days, we will be making major changes to our email forwarding service in order to make sure that we are providing a consistent, high-quality forwarding service that meets our members’ expectations. This is something we have wanted to do for awhile, but recent events have forced us to pursue a change strategy that might not have been our first choice.
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