Where Did Our Tech Support Content Go?

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, Reich Web Consulting was just Reich Consulting.  I came from a background in IT and continued to take IT and support clients for several years.  Since then, we’ve narrowed our focus to web development and web marketing.  We’re no longer in the tech support business.

With that in mind, we want our website to reflect the services we offer today.  We’ll be moving all of our tech support content out to Medium, so those articles that are still helpful remain available to those who need them.

Our site at reich-consulting.net will focus on the topics in which we specialize, specifically web developer and web marketing.

Your WordPress Hosting Is Upgrading to PHP 7.2

Are you a Reich Web Consulting WordPress Hosting customer?

We don’t want to bore you with technical details, but we want you to know that some changes are coming to your web hosting platform that may affect your website.

Your site runs on WordPress. WordPress is written in a language called PHP, which has gone through many versions. Your site currently runs on PHP 5.6.  This version will reach its end of life on January 1, 2019.  This means that it is no longer supported software, and will become a security problem if not upgraded.

Don’t worry! You chose to host with Reich Web Consulting because we’ve got your back. We still do. If you trust Reich Web Consulting to do right by you, well, there’s no need to keep reading. Go enjoy this beautiful summer day! If you’d like to learn more, continue on.

The Benefits

There’s a reason we’re not asking if you want this upgrade, and that reason is SECURITY. Not performing the upgrade would eventually leave your website open to attack.  Every web host that supports WordPress and PHP must make this transition within the next 5 months, or willfully choose to leave their customers vulnerable to hackers.

As an added benefit, PHP 7.2 is significantly faster than PHP 5. Some benchmarks indicate that PHP 7.2 can run a WordPress page request over 2x faster than PHP 5! Faster page loads mean more users will stay on your site longer, and may even help search engine ranking.

Our Upgrade Plan

We’re upgrading to the latest version of PHP, which is 7.2. Most sites will work without any modifications, but some may require additional work.

In order to upgrade our sites without causing service interruptions, we’ll go through the following process.

  1. Run a Compatibility Tool Against Your Site to Determine if the PHP 7.2 upgrade is safe.
  2. If it’s not we’ll determine what components are incompatible.
  3. If those components are free and won’t affect your site performance to upgrade them, we’ll go ahead and update those components.
  4. If making your site compatible with PHP 7.2 will include any costs, we’ll contact you before we do anything. This could be due to premium plugin upgrades, or significant labor involved in more complex scenarios.

Only after all the sites we host are tested and confirmed to work with PHP 7.2 will be “flip the switch.

Our Upgrade Timeline

We plan to begin testing immediately.  We plan to complete the process and finalize the upgrade to PHP 7.2 at the end of August.

Schedule Meetings with Doogle and Save Time Featured Image

Schedule Meetings with Doodle and Save Time

I know, I know: Tim Ferris said it first. Use Doodle to schedule meetings. It’s out there now.  You can stop reading if you’re that busy or that lazy.

I don’t need to schedule meetings often and for that I consider myself very lucky. In my past careers meetings were never a tool to move the work or the company forward. I’m not a fan of meetings, but sometimes they’re necessary.

Yesterday I had to schedule a meeting for me, a freelance designer, and a local business owner I’m hoping to earn as a client.  I have a flexible schedule.  My designer works a regular nine-to-five so he’s limited to evenings and weekends.  The potential client runs a brick-and-mortar store and three e-commerce sites in addition to manufacturing much of her product so her time is precious too.

Why Scheduling Meeting Sucks

Getting two or more busy people to agree to a single place and time is like herding cats. Endless email exchanges waste your time and theirs. Normally the meeting organizer suggests a time and prays that the attendees can make it. Thus begins a seemingly endless cycle of,

“I can’t do Wednesday morning. I’ve got yoga. But I can do 3:00 on Tuesday!”

“ooh, I’ve got a thing then! Can we do Thursday?”

“My kid has a piano/soccer/jujitsu recital/game/death match then. How about next Monday?”

 and so on and so forth until all parties desperately need for this meeting to take place at a marijuana dispensary.

How Doodle Works

Doodle flips the script on scheduling. It flips the script straight into the trash can in fact, and then explains in a calm but convincing tone that if you don’t like it you and your whole bloodline can go suck eggs. (Not hyperbolic at all.)

Rather than suggesting a meeting time and waiting for attendees to tell you why it sucks, Doodle lets you suggest a bunch of possible meeting times and lets your guests choose the times that work for them.

Once all of your guests have responded you’re left with a condensed list of times that work for everyone.  Easy-peasy! You’ll love how easy it is to schedule a meeting. Your guests will love how you didn’t waste their time with endless email. And if you’re a meeting addict and can’t get away with the free tier, you’ll love the price.

Internet Safety, Part 2: There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

(This is part 2 of a series on internet safety? Check out Part 1 to get up to speed.)

In addition to the threats outside of their own control, users face two problems when it comes to internet safety:  a skill-gap, and a sense of entitlement. Both are problems under our control.

Internet Safety Problem #1: The Skill Gap

The Internet is part of our daily lives, but nobody ever actually told us how to use it.

A meme showing an elerly woman believing a scam, which illustrates just difficult Internet safety can be for those who didn't grow up with the technology.

The Internet is basically run by scumbags who hate your Grandma.

Do you know what deism  means? Deism is the belief that God created the universe and then left it to manage itself. The Internet is a lot like a deist universe: in the beginning some geniuses created the Internet. They filled their new digital world with government, military, and university servers. But soon the proud parents turned their creation over to the powers of the free market and the rest is pretty much history. Now you have to navigate a maze of sleaze and scams to do anything constructive. Internet safety is like driving through an unfamiliar city. You need to remain cautious, be aware of where the “bad areas are,” and know what trouble looks like. I’ll try to teach you these skills in the rest of the series.

Internet Safety Problem #2: Entitlement

The second problem of Internet safety is that we have an unrealistic expectation that everything on the Internet ought to be free, and that goes doubly for those of us who grew up suckling at the teats of Napster.

A meme showing a young woman celebrating a life mileston paid for by her parents. Many folks think that they're entitled to everything the Internet has to offer free of charge, an unrealistic expectation that causes real problems when it comes to Internet safety.

I imagine they bought her an iPod full of songs from Limewire too.

The Internet isn’t any different from the real world: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  One way or another somebody pays for everything, but there are many ways that can happen. The one exception is true Free Open-Source Software, but identifying true open source versus software that’s simply hijacked the term to gain legitimacy is hard work.

“But Brian,” you say, “I found all these neat backgrounds of cute furry kitties, a free download of Elvis’ latest album from beyond the grave, and this free program that makes out with me when I’m alone on a Friday night! How do you explain THAT?”

Keep reading and I’ll explain some of the fun and exciting ways the Internet will try to screw you over.

How Free Services Make Money

My girlfriend wife‘s uncle Bill is fond of saying profit isn’t a dirty word.  I absolutely agree with him, provided that profit doesn’t depend on scamming other people out of their money.  Many will put your Internet safety at risk. Here’s a short list of methods that free services use to make money, ordered from “legitimate and totally safe” to “kill it with fire.”

  • Donation-based services: some services are truly free and won’t ever charge you anything, but they may solicit donations. One example is Wikipedia. Services like these work based on the good-will of their users, and the assumption that honest people will be willing to give what the service is worth to them.  Some of them even hold annual fundraising drives like NPR.
    Internet Safety Rating: Very Safe
  • Crowd-funding: Some services work by soliciting contributions through sites like KickStarter of GoFundMe. The idea is that people will vote with their dollars for services and products that they want to see happen.
    Internet Safety Rating: Very Safe
  • Free software with a paid, premium version. SketchUp is a perfect example. You can download the free version, and if you need more powerful, commercial features you can buy the premium version. The free version is their “loss leader” that makes you want the more expensive product.  It’s sort of like the free samples at the grocery store.
    Internet Safety Rating: Very Safe
  • Pay-With-a-Share: This is another new but relatively save way of providing free services.  A vendor will offer you their software or service either for money or for a “share” on Facebook or Twitter.  Basically you’re deciding if you want to pay for their program or help them reach other people who will.
    Internet Safety Rating: Safe
  • Free trial subscriptions like Spotify Premium. Services with free trials offer their full service for free for a limited time, then either force you to pay or automatically start charging your credit card. Free trials work the same way they work in the real world: they give you a chance to try the full product before you pay for it.  We’ve all received magazine offers that work this way.
    Internet Safety Rating: Safe
  • Ad-Supported Services: Ad-support allow a company to offer their program or service free of charge by selling ad space to other companies. This is one of the most popular revenue options for free services. Most of Google’s services are ad-supported. Heck, even my site and all of my videos are ad-supported because, while I love what I do and I love passing on what I know to other people, I also need to earn a living.  It’s not so different from the ads you might see on public transportation and serve a similar purpose.
    Internet Safety Rating: Safe
  • The Ol’ Bate-and-Switch: sometimes you can’t see this one coming ahead of time. You’ll sign up for a program or service that offers itself completely free of charge, and one day, once the service had become part of your online routine, you’ll be greeted with a Pay Wall requiring you to cough up money to use the service. A recent change at LogMeIn, a top provider of remote access software, recently stopped offering a free package after years of offering a free and paid tier.  The most appropriate real-world example I can think of is the classic drug-deal saying that “the first hit’s always free:” create a need, then use it to hold a person hostage.
    Internet Safety Rating: Safe, but Deceptive
  • Software Bundling: Sometimes the owner of one program gets money to install another program along with their software.  One example is Oracle’s Java. Java is on just about every computer on the planet, yet the program was never been profitable for Oracle or its original creator, Sun Microsystems. In recent years Oracle has tried to lower the loss by packaging browser toolbars along with Java.  Most “legitimate” software that bundles other programs will ask before installing them, giving you the chance to opt-out of stuff you don’t want, but some programs aren’t so kind.
    Internet Safety Rating: Unsafe
  • Adware: To me there’s a distinction between ad-supported software and ad-ware. Software that I consider ad-supported will display ads while you’re using it.  I define ad-ware  as software whose sole reason for existence is displaying ads on your computer whether you’re using the software or not.
    Internet Safety Rating: Unsafe
  • Information Sharing/Theft: Some services might offer you a free download in exchange for your name and your email address.
    Internet Safety Rating: Unsafe
  • Malware: Some free software will bundle things that will harm or slow down your computer.  This sort of software is malware, and sometimes it’s a very fine line between what’s considered malware and ad-ware (or ad-supported software). Some malware will display ads, some change your default search engine and home page, some spies on your internet usage and reports it to marketing agencies, while other malware might use your computer as part of a “botnet” for a larger, more nefarious goal.  And some programs have no function except being a malware vehicle.
    Internet Safety Rating: Very Unsafe
  • Ransomeware: this method of moneymaking is becoming increasingly popular in the last few years.  Ransomeware is software that makes your computer unusable until you pay a fee to fix it. These are some of the biggest threats that home users now face.  There are fake antivirus applications all over the internet which, once installed, reports that viruses have infected your computer and that you need to pay a fee to remove when, in reality, the antivirus program itself is the problem.  And then there’s Cryptolocker: this little gem encrypts your hard drive, then requires you to pay a fee, payable only in BitCoin, to decrypt and access your files.
    Internet Safety Rating: Very Unsafe

The Open Source Exception

The one exception to the rule is open source software.  A program is “open source” if the author has made it’s code available for others to see and change. Open source software is usually quite safe.

Open source exists based on a set of incentives separate from monetary gain.  People write open source software because it solves a particular problem that’s important to them. Some do it to keep their programming skills sharp, or simply for the challenge. Many companies built around open source pay their programmers to contribute to open source projects, and then the company offers a premium, paid product built on top of it, or offers paid support for the open source project itself.

The important thing to remember is that open source is usually free, but free isn’t always open source.If a program is offered for free and isn’t open source, you can bet it’ll try to make money some other way.

Internet Safety Part 1: Introduction
Internet Safety Part 2: There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch