Database Progress

Posted By on October 29, 2014

I’ve been telling you about working on the databases which will be serving up most of the content for this site.  A relative who runs a successful web hosting company has been helping me with some aspects of the site and databases.

It’s still growing but at this time, there are:

  • 14 databases
  • containing a total of 64 tables
  • 768 total fields
  • 116 relationship paths
  • each containing about 70 to 38,000 rows.

The sum total should yield in excess of ~49,928 pages of U.S. philatelic information. A few foreign items but not many at this point.

Potentially this will grow by another 30,000 pages of US information and another 27,000 pages of other, more generic philatelic information including the largest philatelic glossary on the internet covering 31 languages.

Eventually I will add more topical and foreign information.

I have developed the requirements and specifics of each database.  This past weekend we had a meeting and reviewed the design requirements for the first set.  We discussed them and several good suggestions were made. I’m expecting comments and questions as they are being created over the next couple weeks.  The content for this set has been prepared, formatted and is ready to be imported.  After we’ve tested them, we’ll make the pages available to the public as a beta test and move to the next set.

The initial content will be basic until they have been beta tested and any corrections or additions are made.  Additional content will be added.  These include searchable directories for a stamp events, philatelic organizations, philatelic glossary/dictionary and a large directory of philatelic book and publications.

The next set will include a content management system, predominantly for serving articles.

The stamps database is in progress and is massive. For content development purposes has been broken into three subsections; technical data, subject bio data and related historical information. Although this represents the core of this website, it will probably be one of the last databases uploaded due to it’s size and complexity.

I’m real excited to see this all finally coming together.

Keep an eye on the site… much more is coming!





Our Forum

Posted By on October 23, 2014

You may have noticed that the FORUM that was there, isn’t any more.  It’s been replaced by a “coming soon” page.  The old one was troubled and we had a hard time keeping SPAMMERs from submitting 100+ fake posts per day.  These never made it to the FORUM because approval was turned on but it made weeding through for real comments a time consuming chore.

The only kind of  SPAM I like is fried with onions and a dollop of mustard, or served as cold diced cubes in a salad! I haven’t had any in a long time… sounds good, now I’m hungry.

A new FORUM will be placed in service soon.  Newer controls and user registration requirements will help keep SPAM to a minimum.

My full attention right now is on the databases that will be driving most of the content for the site.  Other features such as the FORUM will come after we have a beta version of the databases in place and working.  Hopefully this will all be in place by years end.

Keep watching the site!


Content Work

Posted By on October 20, 2014

This site started out as static, hand-coded pages using templates developed by myself.  Since then the scope has grown to a point where it would be impossible to keep up or produce the number of pages needed manually.

We are working on several databases to deliver “dynamic content”.  Some of them are small and some HUGE.  These represent tens of thousands of pages of content and the databases will be uploaded one at a time.  A few will only have a little information in at first as we verify that everything works. The bulk of the data will be added once we’re satisfied.

In addition to the tabulated stamp and related data contained in databases, we are implementing content management system for article content.  Permitting multiple authors to work on the site without tripping over each other.

After the initial uploads we will press forward with data entry, populating the databases and the site will continue to grow quickly.

Keep watching over the next couple months…




Posted By on October 18, 2014

If you notice that menus and features are not working, it’s probably because those are still using “Active-X” and your browser defaults to “active content – off”.  The current menus/features use some “active-x” or “active content”.

You can enable active content through your web browser or you will have to wait for the updates to be made over the next few weeks.  Some people are afraid of turning it on.

Over the next couple weeks, you may also notice that menus and other features have stopped working or work intermittently.  As we experiment and re-engineer some of the “Active-X” features, you may notice some inconsistencies.

Due to this we are exploring and experimenting with other ways to make the menus work properly without active-x.  At the same time, I’ll do a little house keeping and clean them up for easier navigating.

Please stay tuned and we’ll get through this as soon as possible.



Posted By on October 15, 2014

I have done an “about face” on my decision not to run ads.  The decision was made in part due to my schedule, never having the time to dedicate 100% and the shear work load that I laid-out for this site has caused unacceptable delays in my opinion.  As a consequence I have brought in some professional help from another branch of the family as well as additional automation tools.

Some of this represents additional costs which I hope modest use of advertisements will help cover.  This is not really intended as a income generating site.

My goal of providing “the” repository of philatelic information, free to all, has not changed. Yes, this is largely a family affair but we have been in touch with several well known authors who have decided to write a few articles for the site!

Ad placements are strictly under the following terms:

  • No blinking or distracting ads,
  • Nothing that moves, floats over or covers text,
  • Nothing that a user HAS to click on to read the pages content.
  • Nothing embarrassing, illegal (even about legalization) or immoral, (sex, drugs, online gambling, adult diapers, ED problems, etc.).  Yes, I will be the judge of that but I will also listen to users of the site.
  • Nothing that our youngest readers shouldn’t see.
  • Ads are only located in certain areas such as the sidebar, are small in size and do not intrude into the article’s area.
  • Content text, graphics or menus never have to flow around an ad.
  • Text ads and links are permissible but must be on topic.
  • Any ad clicked on will open in a new browser window so users won’t have to figure out how to get back.
  • No overabundance of ads.  Some pages won’t display any ads.

Ads will be selected which are in some way related to the content of the page displaying the ad or it will simply be philatelic in nature.  For example; if the page is discussing digital microscopes for philatelic use, an ad might be displayed for a company that sells them.

I will not use articles to steer readers to specific products to make a buck. there is no endorsement for pay deals.  If at anytime a paid endorsement happens, or could be construed, I will make note of that for the users.  For example; if “company-x” paid me to add an article they supplied which extolls their product, first I’d make sure they article is not a lie, second I’d make sure the readers knew that the article came from “company-x”.

As politely as possible, I do intend to poll users on several topics including what they think about ads and product types to steer clear of “sore subjects”.


Changes to menus and messages

Posted By on October 15, 2014

Most of the work we’re currently doing is behind the scenes. However, you may notice some minor changes.

  • The entrance to this BLOG, which you must have found since you’re reading this, has been moved from the accordion menu on the right to the top menu bar.
  • Menus that we’re down below have started migrating to the right hand accordion menu.  These will stay open until closed with a click.
  • The verbiage on temporary pages has been updated and the development status page has been removed since changes will be coming faster than I care to update a status page.  Priority being on the actual work, more than overhead at this point.

More to come!!


Great things are happening!

Posted By on October 6, 2014

Keep an eye on the site… I have a renewed effort afoot to get this site flying.  I am currently working with someone who can help with the design and development of the databases to drive much of the site.

Several major changes are currently being planned and developed. Among the changes will be improved navigation and management of the content.  As well as a lot more content!

The next couple months should be really exciting. There will be some new features and some that haven’t panned out will be removed, such as the guestbook.  It was a nice idea and a few people legitimately posted messages but it has been flooded with SPAM ever since I put it online, regardless of the security method employed. Same with the FORUM.  Eventually a new, improved and secure FORUM will be back but I have to concentrate on the main site right now.

For the other changes… you’ll just have to wait a little longer and see.






Talk about a run of bad luck!

Posted By on August 18, 2013

First, my hosting company loses its mind and I had to move everything… then right after I get the hosting files moved and in the process of setting everything back up…  my home server lost its mind too!  I have a server running a software RAID with 6.5 TB of storage ‘of sorts via WHS’.  As it was, I had about 648 GB free.

A drive was beginning to show signs of failing but I didn’t have enough drive capacity or ability to, physically add another drive so I could remove the bad drive from the pool.  I slowly had to move about 3.5 TB of files off the server in order to make enough space to remove the drive from the shared space.

The good news is that no files were lost but these two events have cost me precious time, about 5 weeks… I now find myself behind schedule, which is a shame because before these two events took place, I was ahead of schedule by about two weeks.

So, now my home server is healed and I’ve reconfigured it so I can add more physical drives.  I have not yet migrated everything back to the server but can get back to work again.  I’ll buy 4 more 2TB drives (64mb WD Red drives) in the near future and ensure that I have enough available space to remove one drive from the pool.

At least it gave me the push to reorganize my local files and get rid of some and move some to off-line storage (hard drives in a metal insulated box on a shelf)


A Painful Transition

Posted By on July 21, 2013

Well, I’ve moved to a new host and this was 3.5-weeks long and painful, let’s not do this again!  

Moving a site from one host to another “sounds” easy but it’s really not as simple as uploading the site to a new location.  There are a lot of configuration, version or other changes and updates that have to happen concurrently to get the site running again. In the process I’ve lost a number of BLOG entries that were made since the beginning of June.  I’ve also lost all guestbook entries.

The site is about 85% recovered and I am also implementing a few changes to the structure and back end while I am at it.

 Items not yet uploaded and not yet working are :

  • BLOG***
  • Guestbook
  • FORUM***
  • Classifies Ads
  • Dictionaries***
  • The internal site Search Engine*** (is there but has not been updated but will very yield limited results)

 *** I hope to have these working by the end of this weekend. I may have the dictionaries partially restored by the end of the weekend.

The guestbook will wait until I find a better web application.  One that is more secure and SPAM resistent. The FORUM will be up but I doubt that I will make it accessable yet. There is still a lot of work to be done before I have time to moderate a FORUM likewise with the classified ads section.

This weekend, I will also be reworking/reloading the 14 php/MySQL databases (for content uploads over the summer). This is just a matter of making a few minor alterations and re-uploading it. Although it won’t be live yet I will have some test pages running for data entry and presentation.

Ive added a new article directory, with a sortable table.  This list is no where near complete as as soon as I am satisfyed that I’t working ok I’l add the rest of the articles to it.

More to come…



The move to a new host…

Posted By on July 21, 2013

After struggeling with problems since mid May, I gave up and asked my previous hosting company to cancel my account effective immediately.

The reason is that has slowly degraded.  Lately we’ve been fighting being blocked by all the major ISPs and spam block lists (Verizon, ComCast, SpamHaus/CBL, etc).  The IPs assigned to IMHosted have been flagged for spamming.  Unfortunately, that means EVERYONE on the same shared server at IMHosted is fighting this.  As soon as they get unblocked it happens again and they get blocked again making our email addresses next to useless. 

IMHosted’s tech support either doesn’t care, are the ones spamming or they are just inept.  ( I think choices A and C are the most likely.) 

Slowly they’ve reduced their reach ability.

  • I used to have a phone number for support… GONE. 
  • I used to have direct emails for support… GONE. 
  • I used to have live CHAT to a US based person at the datacenter…GONE.  

The only support option left:  a web form with an average response time of 3 days (my personal observations) and a CHAT to somewhere that they don’t speak (or type) in English.  Their billing department during business days is apparently incapable of communicating in fluent english as well.

Over the past couple years, they’ve also modified their terms since I signed up with them.  They’ve reduced the system capabilities and limits. Their install ready scripts have also stagnated.  Same crap for several years now, as a matter of fact the list is shorter now than it was when I signed up. They have not even kept the versions up to date.

Due to the type of account and access that I had, I had limited visability and ability to act on security related issues. 

Since early-mid May, I’d been fighting my outgoing emails being blocked by spam lists, even though I don’t spam (how many of you have ever recieved a spam from me… NONE). I send 20-50 emails on a Very HEAVY day. Tech support said that someone on the same box was sending spam and they suspended his account.

In June, I suspected that someone was using my email accounts to send SPAM.  I contacted tech support for help with a rather lengthy email giving them the names and files that looked suspicious and again asked them for help.  First, they replyed with a cut-n-paste straight out of the help files telling me how to turn on spam assassin…  They obviously didn’t read the email I sent because they thought I was getting spam.  In reality, I don’t think the other user on the box was spamming, I believe the box had been compromised and someone was using the accounts to send spam without permission to do so.

I emailed again with a full description of what I was seeing and asked tech support for assistance.  Their tech support suspended my account!!! Friday, June 28th. No notice, no response to emails/tickets, no nothing! No chance to even download or transfer my files.

I’m glad that I do a full back of the site once a month but since this was a few days before my regularly scheduled back up, I lost all changes made on the server for almost a month.  That month was pretty active and I had made a lot of changes.

I waited 1 week for a responce and tried to escelate the problem with a link for the tech supprt superrvisor.  That’s just another dead end.  NO Responce at all.  NO replys to any of the 3 tickets I had to open, not a word. 

Even though billing closed the account at my request, I know the account is still on their system because I am still getting automated alerts from the server on status and stuff like that.  I get one every-day.  Funny, but I didn’t start getting the alearts until all this trouble started.  I flagged them as Spam so my spam filter deletes them but I still get them everyday.  If they don’t stop by the end of the month I’ll report them to my ISPs as spam!!!

I had been a customer since June 7th 2006 and I would have stayed with them for a long time.  Just before this all started in mid-May, I was to the point where I wanted to upgrade my service to support the work that I’m currently doing on the site.  I tried to contact them for three weeks and look at what they could offer.  I never did get to talk to anyone about upgrading my service.  I’m glad that I didn’t now.  Instead I upgraded elsewhere and relocated my site.

It took a coupe days for the name server transfers to complete but now I have a dedicated IP, Private SSL Cert, the new host’s versions are up to date and they offer better terms all the way around.

 So that’s the painful story.  I now perform more frequent backups and have increased the documentation of my sites behind the scenes work.

Don’t host with IMHosted and if you do… do yourself a favor and move while you can still access your files.