Friday, September 23, 2011

Hello, New Auto-Installers!

Last December we reported that the Fantastico Auto-Installer would be phased out in favor of Installatron. While researching Auto-Installers (to make sure we give you the best one available) we also found Softaculous. Both Installatron and Softaculous were quietly added to your cPanel Software/Services section in February while we tested both in their installing capabilities, customer service, the variety of their scripts and so on.

We're pleased to announce that we've decided to offer BOTH Auto-Installers and are included in all our shared hosting plans at no additional charge!

You'll find both icons in the "Software/Services" section of your cPanel (at the very bottom, unless you've re-ordered the sections):

After offering Fantastico since 2005...
Fantastico took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to release new scripts, and was especially lagging in releasing new versions of scripts. When you're dealing with scripts such as WordPress, when updates should be available and applied within a matter of hours, a delay of weeks to sometimes months (Fantastico typically would release new scripts along with updated scripts in "batches", saving the updated scripts for the next batch of 5-10).

Fantasticos' admins maintained that they offer an auto-installer, not an auto-updater, and they do have a point. The problem is both that when a user installs something a certain way they expect to be able to update it in the same manner; and also that Fantastico would often make changes to a script (in order to install it through their auto-installer) that made it incompatible with using that scripts' own internal updater. All of this led to many outdated scripts in many hosting accounts, and many web hosts stopped offering Fantastico because of the security risks involved.

Installatron and Softaculous are a new breed.
Some key features of both, which we found impressive:

  • Updated scripts are released within hours, a day or two at most.

  • When an update to a script you have installed is released, you get an emailed notification.

  • Any existing/currently installed script (installed from another installer or manually) can be easily imported into either Installatron or Softaculous for ease of future management.

  • Each carry an enormous catalog of available scripts in every category you can think of (and at least a few I'll bet you can't!):
    Blogs, micro blogs, social networking, image galleries, polls and surveys, wikis, CMS and portals, forums, eCommerce, customer service, accounting, calendars, gaming, mailing lists, and many, MANY more!

  • Each is very responsive to our support requests.

Just how many scripts are available?
It depends on which hosting plan you have. We painstakingly matched the scripts to each hosting plans' disk space and target user. We tried to chose some scripts from each applicable category, though obviously the eCommerce scripts will be exclusively for the Quasar (eCommerce) plan (our reseller plan, Omega, has all scripts available so they can provide them to their own customers).

Ceres (designed for very small businesses or personal sites) 61 scripts
Pegasus (designed for medium-sized businesses or small forums) 107 scripts
Orion (designed for businesses or active forums) 145 scripts
Voyager (designed with developers in mind) 200 scripts
Quasar (our eCommerce plan) 220 scripts
Omega (our Reseller plan) 220 scripts

So which auto-installer should you use?
Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and each carries different scripts. I'll be honest, Installatron has come across as the stronger product and company overall, though Softaculous has been responsive to suggestions and issues we've had.

It was only in the past week that Softaculous offered a way for us hosts to offer certain scripts to certain hosting plans, commonly called an Access Control List...something that Fantastico has had for years and every other auto-installer has built-in from day one. Waiting for them to enable the ACL was why this official announcement was delayed until now. I've also personally noticed during testing a few issues with the installation process of some scripts (i.e.- scripts failed to install), as well as demos on their site not working, a lot of spam in the support forum, etc. The last thing we at Hello World Web need to do is offer something to our hosting clients that will only create more support requests for us and frustration for our users.

To their credit, the Softaculous admins do seem to be right on top of correcting these issues as fast as they can, and as long as there's positive moment on that front, we will continue to offer Softaculous as an auto-installer to our clients. What Softaculous has to offer over Installatron is a boat-load more scripts. While Installatron thoroughly and carefully tests each script they offer, Softaculous seems to "fast-track" new scripts (may be good, may be bad, it just depends on the script).

It will be a personal decision for you on which installer you prefer, as they each have very different interfaces with different options and information on the various scripts they offer. As it stands right now, if both installers carry the same script, preference will be given to Installatron.

Sometime it takes more than one-click to get it right.
One thing to note: You may see Softaculous (or another Auto-Installer, for that matter) bragging that they offer "one-click installs", as if that's a good thing. It's not always. The "clicks" that a user needs to do to install a script typically involve choices. The less clicks, the fewer choices or decisions you get to make about your install, which is not always a good thing. Your mileage may vary. While Installatron installs involve more clicks, they lead you through each screen and provide plenty of information-in-plain-English (as opposed to that geek-gobbledegook) so you can make sensible choices.

You may also notice we don't carry every script each of the auto-installers offer. Any script that is found to be abandonware, have known security issues, or lack any sort of user support we will not be offering. Be sure to check our FAQ on Application Auto-Installers for information on both auto-installers and a list of scripts we won't carry (and why). There will soon be a complete list on our website, listing every script available to each hosting plan.

Take our new Auto-Installers for a spin!
Enjoy yourself, poke around, and see what's available. Please be aware, however, that though we'll certainly help you when we can, we did not author/develop these scripts and can not offer support for them. During each script install you'll be given a link to that scripts' support forum. Please make note of it. If you find your script requires special server settings, we're happy to make those changes for you if it doesn't compromise security.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Status is up even when the server is down

This afternoon we came across a nasty cPanel bug that caused Apache to fail to restart (while all other services: email, FTP, cPanel were up and continued to function). We were on it within 6 minutes and the issue was resolved within 20 minutes.

But what if you'd tried to access the server within that time? How would you know what was happening??? You're reading it right this moment. Our hosting status blog is hosted off-site and through the magic of secondary (back-up) DNS continues to keep you informed, even in the event of an actual emergency. Or in the event of a whole range of things you might want to know about.

Sometimes in the world of hosting, things happen fast. Issues can be created and fixed before we get a chance to blog about them. That's why there's Twitter. What? Are we asking you to sign up for yet another service, just to stay informed? No way!

Our Tweets are imported into the right-hand sidebar of our status blog, so you still only need to remember one place to check:

But wait, you say...what if I'm playing FarmVille on Facebook, and checking the status page is too much work? Never fear! We've got you covered there, too.

Simply head over to Our Facebook Page (You're a fan, right? RIGHT???) and click on either the News or the Twitter link:

Our blog posts from this very status blog, along with our Twitter statuses imported (there's even a nifty little "follow" button for you to click). If you're wondering why some of our Tweets start with [status] that's to allow anyone using an RSS Reader who may want to only receive our actual status tweets and filter out our otherwise equally high-quality tweets.

Through the magic of the Internet, you can even have the status tweets sent to your phone through SMS. Not like when I was a kid...and we have to carve our tweets on stone tablets, by hand. True story.

If all that isn't enough for you (man, tough crowd!) there are numerous RSS options on the blog (RSS Readers, subscription by email, carrier pigeon) so you can keep up with the latest. We've got lots of exciting new features rolling out in the next month or two, and you won't want to miss any of it!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

New SSL Certificate for the Apollo Server

A new SSL certificate was installed for all shared hosting and services (mail, FTP) on the Apollo server. Depending on the email client/software you use, you may need to re-accept the certificate for email, and/or also re-accept the certificate in your browser (or create a new exception).

This will need to be done any time a new certificate is installed or renewed (and in this case we changed from using Equifax to using GeoTrust certificates). The hostname will always be the same, only the validity dates change. The big, bad, scary warnings that your browser gives you, claiming "No valid site would ask you to do this" aren't technically true. Millions upon millions of websites use shared hosting.

They write these warnings to scare the crap out of people, because - in general - that's the only way people pay attention. The unfortunate part is these warnings are both overkill and technically untrue...and quite often the user clicks the red "X", closes their browser, unplugs their computer, hides under their desk...then calls me to complain the next day.

This is how shared hosting, and SSL encryption is *supposed* to work.

An SSL certificate can only be given to one hostname and one single IP. A shared hosting server contains many domains/accounts, all using the same IP. The shared hosting servers' SSL certificate that's used by all services (email, FTP, cPanel logins, etc) is assigned to the servers' hostname. Typically when you login to cPanel you use your own domain name, i.e. - (or

What your browser (or email client) is alerting you to is that the domain name (our server) on the SSL certificate is different than the domain you're logging into (your domain on our server). That's all. They're trying to alert you in case you're not aware that the names are different. In this case, you *are* aware, and can verify that by viewing the certificate and verifying that the servers' hostname and our name are there on the certificate.

Many "discount hosting companies" use self-signed certificates, but we go the extra mile and provide high quality encryption for you, with a purchased SSL certificate from a recognized vendor (in this case GeoTrust).

If you have any questions about this please feel free to ask.