Hosting Without Limits: A Review of 1&1 Internet’s Unlimited Package

Back in the days before the ‘tubes, when all items were analog and knowledge printed, “unlimited” used to mean there were no limits. Cable companies and cell phone providers have tortured the definition to be one of fine print, term limits, caps and rate increases. When I was asked to review 1&1 Internet’s Unlimited Package (tagline: “Hosting without limits”), I entered into it with a high amount of trepidation; worried I might be reviewing “Crazy Eddie’s House of Electrons (and fine print)”. Happily, that was not the case, and I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of use, features, and price.

Earlier in my career, I developed a number of websites for small businesses and individuals. Along the way, I found myself wondering how “normal” (i.e., non-technical) people could manage. The truth was, between the complexities of hosting and the knowledge needed to build a site, they just didn’t, and that’s why they called me. Even pre-built applications meant matching requirements to the offerings of a particular host. As IT professionals, we take a lot of work upon ourselves because it’s just easier to do it ourselves than it is to explain how to do something.

Some hosting companies strive to improve the hosting experience, and over the past 27 years, 1&1 has become one of the most successful and popular hosting companies in the world by offering simple, inexpensive ($0.99/month for three months, then $8.99/month thereafter) and feature-rich hosting plans. In fact, 1&1 has over 13.5 million customer contracts and the group has more than 19 million domains registered. After working off and on for a month with my trial account, I can say this may be the hosting I could help set up for my parents or in-laws, and they could manage most things themselves.

According to the company, 1&1 has over 7,000 employees and 70,000 servers in seven data centers around the word. Beyond website hosting, 1&1 also offers domain registrations, email hosting and GeoTrust SSL certificates. This company is far more than you first imagine.

1&1’s hosting plans are all-inclusive (with unlimited space, unlimited bandwidth and unlimited sites—check that out, really unlimited!) and also include a free domain name registration. These plans can be either Windows or Linux, with MS SQL Server and MySQL as database options. Linux hosting supports PH, Perl, Python, Ruby and Zend, while Windows hosting supports PHP, .NET and Perl. These are just some of the features that appeal to the more technical user.

From the moment you sign up and first log in, you can tell right away that 1&1 is also reaching out to the less technical users. Each time you log in, a helpful tip about some aspect of your plan is displayed. 1&1 has built a custom control panel, which gives you full control over all of your services in a very simple way. If a company pays this much attention to how you interact with its services, it’s a good sign they’re paying attention to the other details of their business.


All new accounts are given a temporary URL so that you can begin development right away. You can upload your own code via FTP or SSH (WebDeploy does not appear to be an option), choose an application from the 1&1 App Center, or you can build a custom website using the 1&1 Website Builder and 1&1 Mobile Website Builder tools.

If you want an easy way to get a site online, and don’t mind starting from one of over 50 highly customizable layouts, the website builder tools are a great option. These tools are aimed at the Wix and SquareSpace crowd and provide an easy way to build a multi-page static website without having to know HTML, CSS or JavaScript (although you can edit these if you want to). The process is very simple: choose a page layout, select a color scheme, font and background, then add content. Create as many pages as you need, ad tweak the HTML or CSS as needed. If you find you need help with the website builders, there is a Contact button right on the menu. Live chat and phone help is available 24/7. I found the Website Builder to be simple, intuitive and complete. Again, “here you go older generation and former clients, I’ll help get you started, but you can make this happen.”

If you need a more dynamic site, or a blog, CMS or shopping cart, the 1&1 App Center features over 140 of the most popular applications, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and phpBB. The 1&1 App Center is a great example of how much effort 1&1 has put into simplifying the hosting experience. Every application has a detailed information page (see below), and installation requires only a couple clicks and minimal information.


Applications can be installed in “Safe Mode”, which is a default install of the application for which 1&1 handles all the updates and patches, or you can install an application in “Free Mode”, which gives you more flexibility, but you’re responsible for updates and patches. The Safe Mode installer is simpler than the Free Mode installer (shown below for Joomla), but if you plan on adding themes or plugins to your application, you’ll need to use Free mode. You can change a site from Safe Mode to Free Mode, but you cannot change from Free Mode to Safe Mode.


Regardless of how you built your site, once it’s online, it’s replicated across multiple data centers. This geo-redundancy provides failover protection, but not load balancing. Also, since the replication is nearly instant, whatever you do to destroy your main site will affect the failover before you can dial support. Fortunately, 1&1 also has daily backups of your site and data. To aid performance and security, 1&1 offers a CDN with CloudFlare traffic monitoring and Railgun™ caching, plus storage and global distribution of large libraries.

Getting yourself online is just the start. To monitor your site’s traffic, 1&1 has their own site analytics package which reports on referring sites, search engine terms and more. Additionally, there are tools to create sitemaps for Google Analytics. To keep your customers engaged, 1&1 also offers email marketing tools. Considering the cost of most email marketing services, this makes the hosting fee even more of a bargain.

For a heck of a lot of sites, I think 1&1 would be a great solution, even for the more technical crowd. It’s obvious the services and control panel are very well thought out, the services offered are feature-rich and a great value. It was pretty hard to find something to criticize, mainly that this didn’t exist 15 years ago. More advanced sites may miss uptime monitoring tools or load balancing, but anything with those needs is probably looking at a different place in the market. Although simple enough for non-technical user, there are enough features to interest a more technical crowd, especially if you have multiple domains and are paying more than $8.99/month total.

Book Review: The Official Joomla! Book

It’s been a year since I met Jennifer Marriott at the Tulsa Tech-Fest, and I feel bad it’s taken me this long to finish reading The Official Joomla Book.  Last year we talked a little about the strong improvement in PHP/MySQL, and a greater acceptance of these technologies in the .NET world, and that discussion is what put her book in my hands.  One of the shining stars of the PHP world is the Joomla! CMS.  It’s full featured and very customizable, but is very easy to set up and administer.  Joomla! is perfect for many websites of all kinds—business, non-profit, civic, etc.  My friend Tom at Frames and Pixels makes part of his living implementing Joomla! sites for his clients, and his sites are but a few of the millions powered by Joomla!.  It’s been six years since the initial release of Joomla!, and the community shows no signs of slowing down.

Before we get into discussing the book, I should point out that this book is meant for the folks who install, configure and maintain Joomla! websites.  The basics of designing templates and using extensions are covered, but if you’re interested in a source-code level book to help you write extensions, this isn’t it.  In the past, I’ve used other CMSs to build client sites, and always wished there was a manual I could hand over with the site so the client would have a reference.  That this book has several chapters “for the client” is one of its strengths.  Also, if you are about to start your first Joomla! site, don’t expect to go chapter-by-chapter.  Read this book first, because there are things you need to think about before you install all through the book.

Chapter 1 is “All About Joomla”, and I can’t describe it better.  It’s all about the history and philosophy of Joomla! (including what the name means), gives a shout out to major contributors in the Joomlasphere, and suggests important conferences.

Chapter 2 covers decisions you need to make prior to installing Joomla!.  It’s really a guide for the client and business analyst to decide on the branding and audience.  It also covers how to choose a good host.

Chapter 3 covers the installation and configuration of Joomla!.  The authors show us “the long way”, which involves downloading the code and FTP’ing to our server.  Briefly discussed is the option of an automated install.  Check with your host to see if they have an automated installation option for Joomla! (of you don’t have a host yet, this may be a decision point for you).  Many hosts do, which simplifies the setup considerably.  Requirements for installation include PHP and MySQL.  Not discussed is installing in Windows machines.  On Windows machines, where PHP and MySQL aren’t usually found, Microsoft provides the Web Platform Installer, which will install all the components you need to run Joomla! and Joomla! itself.  Regardless of which way you install Joomla!, the configuration parts of the chapter should be the same.

Chapter 4 digs into creating and managing content, and is one of the chapters applicable for client and solution provider alike.  With menu items, categories, pages and articles, there are a number of ways to organize your content, all of which emphasize why Chapter 2 is worth including.  Once you have your content outlined, Chapter 4 shows you how to do it.

It would be a rare client indeed who didn’t want some customization to their site.  Out of the box, Joomla! is a very basic site with a great ability to be modified and extended.  Chapters 5 and 6 cover the basics of editing templates and installing/using extensions.  These are the chapters where a client’s site will really take shape.

Chapter 7 is about the care and feeding of a Joomla! site, including search engine optimization and hints for designing the site’s navigation.  This is another chapter for client and provider alike.

Chapters 8, 9 and 10 are more in-depth examinations of using Joomla! for a business, non-profit/NGO and a school site.  These are meant for both client and provider, and are logical follow-ups for Chapter 2.  Some of the best parts of these chapters are the suggested extensions for the three site types.  This is a HUGE time saver when it comes to adding functionality to the basic site.  Other topics include template designs, accessibility options, community building, e-commerce and multilingual sites.  These three chapters alone are probably worth the price of the book.

Chapter 11 is a look ahead to the future of Joomla!.  Since it’s taken me so long to complete this review, much of that future has arrived with the release of version 1.7 last month.

Chapter 12 is comprised of a number of interviews with leaders in the Joomla! community.  Each interviewee focuses on a particular aspect of Joomla!—the project itself, hosting, branding, extending and using Joomla! in a sector such as education or business.  Each interview contains a few pieces of advice that may prove invaluable in preventing common mistakes or creating a site that sets itself apart from others.

This book finishes with three appendices.  Appendix A has solutions to common problems, including the famous lost administrator password.  Appendix B is a huge list of resources to help you build your skills, design your site, get help or content.  Appendix C covers the new Access Control List functionality in version 1.6.  User permissions have become very granular, and we can set up groups of users with the same permissions.  As any network admin can attest, groups make managing large users bases much easier.

One place where I can see this book being very useful is in Give Camps, where teams of developers have a weekend long “lock in” and create sites for charities.  Using a CMS like Joomla! is critical to the success of Give Camp sites, and a book like this would be extremely useful to the advance planning of the charity’s site.  This book would be a great asset to both the development team and the charity’s “site owners”.

All in all, if you’re in the beginning stages of your Joomla! experience, or have inherited a Joomla! site, you owe it to yourself to get this book.  Very advanced Joomla! admins and developers will probably find this information to be too basic, but they are not who this book is for.  Thank you very much to Jennifer and Addison-Wesley for giving me the opportunity to review this book!

MSDN Roadshow and Nerd Dinner

The MSDN Roadshow has been rescheduled for 11/12/2009, sign up at

Silverlight Data Access and Windows 7 for Developers

Join Microsoft Evangelists Dani Diaz, G. Andrew Duthie, and David Isbitski as they tour the Mid Atlantic this Fall presenting an afternoon packed full of cutting edge tips and techniques for developers and architects.

With two longer sessions, we’ll dig deeper into data access in Silverlight, and check out the most important features in Windows 7 for Developers.

Free admission and a chance to score some surprise giveaways to boot!

Reservations are required, and seating is limited. Register today to reserve your seat.


Data Access and Network Options in Silverlight

Wondering about the most effective way of getting data into your Silverlight application? Trying to sort out the different options available? Then this session is for you. We’ll open up with an overview of the different networking and data access techniques available in Silverlight. Then, we’ll dive into examples of using each of these technologies, and along the way we’ll also examine the role these technologies play in other .NET applications. Finally, we’ll show you the Sample Data feature in Expression Blend 3, and the best method for transitioning from Sample Data to production data in your applications.

200 Level | 1 hour 45 mins

What’s new in Windows 7 for Developers

Windows 7 has many improvements in both performance and user interface features that you should be taking advantage of when developing your applications. In this session we’ll cover an overview of coding those features users will expect such as Libraries, the new Taskbar, and Jump Lists. Next up is taking advantage of several performance improvements like Trigger Start services and the new Windows Troubleshooter. Finally, we’ll show you how to add several of the new interface options you won’t want to miss including Multi-Touch and the Ribbon Menu.

200 Level | 1 hour 45 mins

This goodness to be followed by a nerd dinner, RSVP at

Laplink PCMover is a Lifesaver

Wifey needed a new PC, and like all people who have had the same one for 6 years, she wanted everything to transfer perfectly.  The new one had to operate just like the old one, only better. 

Aloha Bob used to be the gold standard of PC migration tools, but Microsoft bought it and incorporated it into Vista, taking it off the market.  Fortunately, our pals at Laplink have enhanced Laplink PCMover to move applications from one computer to another.  I owned Laplink sync software many moons ago, when they gave you bright yellow parallel to parallel and bright blue serial to serial cables.  I still have the cables, and might have the 3.5″ floppy the software came on.  This was back in the days when laptops were bigger than what we call mini-towers are today.

Configuration of PCMover was easy, it takes about 5 minutes after you install the software on each PC, and then you just start the transfer and walk away.  It took about 4 hours to move 17GB worth of data and programs, but the old PC has USB 1.1 (low speed) ports.  I imagine it’s much faster with USB 2 ports on both ends.  The included USB cable is a high-speed USB interface (you can also transfer via network, but even low speed USB is faster than 100MB).  I mowed the lawn and moved some mulch during the transfer.

After the transfer, a reboot was recommended, and then it was time to see what worked and what didn’t.  The desktop looked exactly like the old PC, and all programs seemed to make the journey, even some weirdos specific to Wifey’s business.  I was a little dubious it all went well, but after opening every program and checking it out, it really did work as well as I had hoped.

What did transfer:

  • All data files and folder structure.  The old PC has  D drive, which the new one doesn’t have, so any folder on d:\ was placed in a new folder at c:\drive_d\ on the new PC.
  • Quickbooks 2003 program, settings and data file
  • Microsoft Office Small Business 2000, including “Recent Files” lists and registration keys
  • FTP Surfer and configured login settings
  • Internet Explorer favorites, cookies and home page
  • Olympus Cameida Master Pro
  • TightVNC and settings (it was even registered as a service and automatically started when I rebooted)
  • Shutterfly Smart Upload and settings
  • Desktop settings, including background photo and icons

What didn’t transfer:

  • AVG 7.5 (registered version, and the docs say A/V software won’t be migrated)
  • Passwords for Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail accounts
  • .NET Framework 2.0 (an error occurred at startup)
  • Startup folder entries
  • Printers
  • Some Outlook rules needed to be tweaked for some reason (all folders were present, but I had to respecify the “specified folder”)
  • a few folder settings (such as showing the full address in title and address bar, and opening folders in new windows)

The old OS was Windows XP Home SP1, and the new OS is Windows XP Professional SP2, and this may account for a few of the settings which needed to be retweaked.  By design, the Windows itself does not transfer–only settings, programs and data.

Long story short here, I’d say PCMover was practically perfect.  The few small settings I had to change were no big deal, especially when compared to having to reinstall all that software and reconfigure all the settings.  PCMover will be an enthusiastic high recommendation to anyone I know migrating to a new PC.

I bought PCMover off the shelf at Staples, but you can download it from Laplink’s website if you don’t need the cable but do need immediate gratification.  You can also order Laplink PCMover from Amazon or Laplink’s website.

Software Review: FeedGhost

In my continuous quest for The Perfect RSS Aggregator, I’ve tried a number of
options, including Thunderbird, NewsGator, Google Reader and RSS Bandit.  I’ve lately been testing FeedGhost, and have been very pleased thus

Upon installation, a three-step installer gets you started very easily with
the reading style, importing OPML and choosing a theme.  When the app
starts, you’re trated to a gorgeous interface.  Even on Windows XP, the
application carries a Vista look.  Screenshots are available from their
website at
Instead of a menu, FeedGhost uses a ribbon-like interface.  I am partial to
the Outlook-style interface, but the application can also be used in the Google
Reader “river of news” style.

After installing at work, FeedGhost imported the OPML from RSS Bandit
flawlessly, and started checking for posts.  FeedGator is fairly
fast–considerably faster than Thunderbird, but not quite as fast as RSS Bandit
(still the fastest RSS aggregator I’ve found).

FeedGhost supports tagging of posts, and the creating of “link blogs”
(similar to which can be shared.  During the trial period,
synchronization is available and automatic.  I installed FeedGhost at home,
and after the wizard, it instantly synchronized my feeds from their server, as
well as the posts I had not deleted, and began checking for updates. 
Overall, it was seamless, painless and quick to have everything I left from work
appear at home.  And that’s a lot of what I’m looking for in an

Once the trial period has ended, there’s a $20 annual fee for continued use
of some of the features (such as synchronization and support for more than 20

Three improvements I’d like to see are:

1) Speed.  Reed Ghost is fast, but RSS Bandit is so much faster.

2) Mobile reader (mentioned as an upcoming feature)

3) The ability to take posts off-line, for reading on a plane for instance,
and to sync up again when reconnected.  Double bonus if I can sync the
off-line feeds to my Treo 700w.

Overall, I’m extremely pleased, almost enough to switch from RSS Bandit and
pay the annual subscription for the sync capabilities.

Review: ASP.NET 2.0 Unleashed

ASP.NET 2.0 UnleashedASP.NET 2.0 Unleashed, by Stephen Walther

Summary: Invaluable book.  Buy it!

I am a very pleased owner of the original ASP.NET Unleashed, for ASP.NET 1.1, so I was looking forward to getting my hands on the version for ASP.NET 2.0.  Stephen Walther is a Microsoft “Software Legend”, largely due to how influential the original ASP.NET Unleashed was in the developer community.  I’m apparently not the only dev praising Stephen and his Unleashed titles.  In addition to authoring books, Stephen was also the lead developer for the Community Starter Kit and the Issue Tracker Starter Kit.  He knows his stuff, and it shows.

Like all of SAMS’ Unleashed series, this book is well organized, well written, and very readable.  Don’t let the easy readability fool you, though—this book is packed with advanced information, just packaged in a way the newest n00b can grow into.  Chapters start off with the basics, and build to more advanced subjects.  By the end of the chapter, you’ve covered the entire concept, with examples.  If necessary, the detailed index leads you right back to the section you need to review.

ASP.NET 2.0 added a lot to the web.config file, so we revisit configuration a number of times.  Where possible, all configuration attributes are detailed, making these sections excellent for reference, as well as learning.  In many cases, important methds and properties for important classes are detailed (such as page output caching).

Perhaps the greatest asset to this book is the examples.  The code in the examples is complete (rather than just a few lines amounting to little more than a method call), so you see methods or configurations in context.  Unlike many of the examples in the MSDN library, Stephen’s examples are simple and to the point, not heavy in code which detracts from the actual example.  All examples in print are written in VB.NET, but complete C# examples are on the CD.  Examples are written with inline code, so they will function in the Express SKUs.  More advanced developers can easily translate into code behind or code beside if they want to, or use the code as-is for learning.  In some places, the examples are more than just an explanation—Stephen actually extends the native framework.  In the sections about Profiles, Stephen includes a “BetterProfileProvider” (with complete source code on the CD), which stores profile properties in separate table columns, rather than in a BLOB in a single field.  This is a similar concept to to the SqlTableProfileProvider from the team.  Few books I’ve read go above an beyond like this one does.

The chapters cover literally almost everything.  With over 1800 content pages and 34 chapters, it would be crazy to try and list them all here.  Chapers are devoted to master pages, GridView control, web parts, caching—pretty much everything you need.  There is even a chapter on integrating JavaScript an dAJAX (Stephen currently has an AJAX book in the works).  The final chapter is a wrap-up, where you build a simple e-commerce application in about 16 pages.  As an additional benefit, you don’t have to read this book front to back to get the benefit of the numerous examples.  In fact, the book isn’t really set up as a “learn in x hours” type of book.  Rather, it’s a reference tome you can actually read.

Not covered in this book are Crystal Reports .NET and SQL Server Reporting Services.  Those are components of Visual Studio, and not available in the Express versions.  Also not included are discussions of Team System (there is another book for that).  The focus on this book is solely ASP.NET and the relevant parts of the .NET framework.

If you’re doing ASP.NET development, using any of the Visual Studio 2005 SKUs, you should definately invest in this book.  This is truly one of the few things you can buy and use which will make you a better developer.

ASP.NET 2.0 Unleashed, by Stephen Walther

Review: ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts in Action

My latest ASP Alliance article has been published: Review: ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts in Action

ASP.NET 2.0 brought us all sorts of new technologies and one of the most exciting is Web Parts. Web Parts are versatile contols over which the end user can exhibit some level of control and form the basis of portals. In his recently published book, Darren takes us from the very basics of web parts and portals to advanced techniques of portal building. Darren’s book is well written, and illustrated with screenshots and code (which can be downloaded from the publisher’s website).

ASP.NET 2.0 Web Parts in Action

kick it on


Just Arrived – Microsoft Visual Studio 2005: Unleashed

VS 2005 Unleashed

After a couple of publishing delays, I received my copy of Visual Studio 2005: Unleashed a week or so ago (ordered for Christmas 2005).  The first thing you notice when you pick up this book is that it’s GINORMOUS.  No joke—832 pages of VS 2005 goodness.

I’m not done with it yet—not by any stretch of the imagination.  That would require a diet much higher in fiber.  But, like all books in the Unleashed series, this one is well written, with copious code samples and illustrations.

Code samples, you ask?  Oh yes, there are some.  Aside from the chapter on language enhancements in C# and VB.NET, there are examples for creating your own code snippets, writing Visual Studio 2005 add-ins, and creating templates you can share with the community.  How-to’s are illustrated with screenshots.

Informaion I’m eager to dig into includes refactoring, unit testing and managing databases via VS 2005.  I’ll have a more formal review once I reach the end.

Review: The GigaLaw Guide to Internet Law

This one is an oldie (in Internet terms) but a goodie.  Even though it was published in 2002, The GigaLaw Guide to Internet Law is still an extremely valuable resource today.   Written by Doug Isenberg, who founded, an Internet site consolidating news relating to Internet law (long before RSS feeds and newsreaders were popular, Doug hand edited the home page with fresh content daily).  The daily e-mail updates almost always include an interesting story.

If you’ve never read Doug before, you’ll be surprised at how well he explains complicated legal issues, with technical detail, in an easy to understand manner.  Over the past several years, this has been a valuable reference on my bookshelf.  This isn’t a book you read cover to cover; it’s broken down into major parts (Copyright Law, Domain Names and Trademarks, Patent Law, Privacy, Free Speech and the First Amendment, Contract Law and High Technology, and Employment Law), with chapters focusing on specific topics in each part (COPPA, Spam, Message Board Misconduct, etc).  Pick the topic you need and read that chapter for an overview of the issues and precedents.

Since its original writing, additional cases have decided in many important areas, especially in Spam and privacy laws, so you shouldn’t take the case studies as a comprehensive list.  Just to take a trip down memory lane, one of the case studies invloves a Playboy Playmate using “Playboy” in the META tags of her website.  Blogs aren’t mentioned, but there is good discussion about message boards.  The issues and arguments regarding each of these topics are still relevant, but finer issues have been worked out by additional precedents.  It will be worth watching if Doug publishes an updated version.  If so, it would be a good idea to get a copy immediately.  If not, chapters such as “The Basics of Copyright Law” and “Website Development Agreements” make this is still an excellent (and understandable) introduction to complicated legal issues surrounding Internet law.  This book is available in both print and downloadable electronic format from Amazon.

Review: ASP.NET 2.0 Cookbook

This is a short review because about 85% of the book is code samples. 
2.0 Cookbook
is divided into 21 chapters, covering topics ranging from
Master Pages, error handling and web parts.  The major improvements in
ASP.NET 2.0 are in here, including examples of the GridView control, profiles
and themes.  Every example includes a brief description of the problem
to be solved, an overview of the solution, and some deeper discussion about the
solution.  In all, there are 125 solutions presented in 980 pages, so you
can see there is ample coverage of every solution.  As you progress
through the chapter, each example builds on the skills and knowledge
developed in the previous example, but is a complete example unto itself. 
Additionally, every example is presented in both VB.NET and C#.  Not only
is this good for cut and paste purposes, but it’s a good way to practice the
language you don’t use primarily.  Speaking of cut-and-paste, there is a
45-day trial to the Safari Bookshelf, which will allow you to search all sorts
of books, and cut and paste from the code examples.

I’ve obviously not used every example in the book, but he ones I have used
have been useful, complete and informative.  Examples are written as inline
code, so examples will work with Visual Web Developer Express, as well as Visual
Studio 2005.  If you want to use the code-behind or code-beside models,
you’ll have to do a little translation on your own.  The code samples and
sample database are available for download from thre author’s website, for
easier use in your projects.

I don’t recommend this as your “introduction to ASP.NET 2.0 book”; this book
is meant mainly for developers who have been through the basics and have some
familiarity with Visual Studio or Visual Web Dev Express.  If you’re
familiar with ASP.NET 1.1, and want a way to get up to speed with some major
improvements in ASP.NET 2.0, I think you’ll find this is a good book to get you