Hosting a Site on Microsoft Azure

This is part of my series of try some alternative hosting options. I decided not to stop with S3 and instead to carry on with a few more options I found. One of these was Microsoft Azure.

I was thinking, like Google and Amazon, I would use their storage platform, using a Blob on Azure Storage. The problem was getting my domain pointed at it and the lack of support for default documents (so you have to specify index.html on the end of URLs).

They do offer some free tiers for their Web Apps though, which is their names for hosting websites, whether they be static HTML, PHP, Python, NodeJS or .Net. You can build and host up to 10 apps for free. So I decided to give that a whirl.

Getting Started

To start you need to sign up for a Web App. That will ask you to create an account using Microsoft Online, Google or Facebook logins. You’ll also need to pick a type, based on the language you want to use. I opted for an ‘Empty site.’

When it’s created you’ll get a random subdomain of azurewebsites.net. For some reason I had a countdown suggesting the app was only available for an hour. There was also a link to click to extend it to 24 hours. There was also the option to sign up for a free 30-day trial, which allows the 10 apps. So it’s all very misleading.

So next I had to figure out how to sign up for the free trial, which seemed to send my round in circles. Then I went through a sign up process on a page that took forever to load and re-load. I had to verify myself by text (or phone), I thought they weren’t going to request my card details, but they did. Eventually it created my account (which can take up to four minutes apparently). What a rigmarole.

Once you’re over that hurdle you’ll find your test site is now pointless and you’ll have to create an app all over again. Now you get to pick your type of plan and have to find the free one as it’s tucked away. You also have to create a resource group, something to with sharing permissions. Then you get to wait until the app is deployed. Finally you have a site!

There’s a bunch of options to load your files, from git to Visual Studio. One option is good old FTP (yay). I found the FTP/Deployment User was set to ‘No FTP/deployment user set’ and no obvious way to change it. It took me a web search to find I had to go to ‘Deployment credentials’ and enter some details. Finally I could upload my files to the wwwroot folder.

Continue reading…

Hosting a Site on Amazon S3

This is part of my series of try some alternative hosting options. I left Amazon until last at they’re the big gorilla in this market. Amazon Web Services (AWS) have been around since 2006 and hold significant market share. As such they’ve been used for a great many things, including hosting static sites.

Simple Storage Service (or S3 to use its more common name) is designed to store files (and there are options about how often they’ll be accessed), but can also be used to host static sites.

Getting Started

Obviously you need any account, and Amazon generously offers a free tier that includes access to all of its products for 12 months. You get the option to select if it’s a company or personal account. Despite the free tier you still have to enter a credit card. You also have to enter a phone number that it will call with a PIN number to verify.

Then you get the option to pick the support plan you want, from Basic (free) to Developer ($49/month) all the way up to Enterprise ($15,000/month!). That’s it, all done.

Amazon have a handy article to run you through hosting a static site. So I started by creating two buckets for my domain (one for the naked domain, one for www). I selected my closest Region (data center) to host it.

Next came uploading my files, which is where most services fall down. The default upload dialog doesn’t support folders, but there is the option to enable the Enhanced Uploader (Beta), which uses Java. It takes (up to) a couple of minutes to enable it, but I thought I would give it a try. It never actually got installed, probably because I don’t have Java enabled in my browser (it never actually gave an error, just sat spinning).

(note: I missed the glaringly obvious message that says I could drop folders on the upload box.)

There are a number of other options to upload files, depending on your OS. Amazon provides an API and there are a number of command line tools that make use of it, as well as GUI applications. I opted to install s3cmd. Continue reading…

The Chaos of 4K

As a recent recipient of a 4K monitor I have taken sudden in-depth interest in the subject of 4K, or Ultra HD (UHD) to give it its other name. What I found was a confusing mix of terminology and technology.

The Standards

First off, there are two standards that are referred to as 4K.

  • UHD is 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • 4K is 4096 x 2160 pixels

The most common use of 4K as a term is for UHD, which is exactly twice the resolution of HD (1080p) as marketed in TVs, hence the Ultra HD name.

The Digital Cinema Initiatives established the 4K standard for movie projectors, exactly double their previous 2K standard.

By rights, UHD is not 4K (it’s not 4,000 pixels wide), but is commonly referred to as such by manufacturers and retailers. Continue reading…

Hosting a Site on Rackspace Cloud Files

This is part of my series of try some alternative hosting options. This time I opted for one of the less common cloud providers: Rackspace.

Cloud Files is their equivalent of Amazon’s S3. It’s designed to store files (as the name suggests), but can also be used to host static sites. It can also serve them via a CDN.

Getting Started

There was a suggestion that developer accounts got some free credit, but I couldn’t see how to sign up for one of those.

The sign-up process is simple enough, a couple of forms. You do need to enter a valid payment method. Then you’re into your control panel and away you go.

That was when I found that, if I wanted to host my files in Europe, I needed to sign up for a separate UK cloud account (like that makes sense). I thought at least it was going to jump me through the account creation process as I reached the ‘activate my account’ page, but no. Cancelling my original account was simple enough.

I basically followed the instructions in this FAQ to get it set up. Creating the container was easy and it even has an option for ‘static website.’ Uploading the files was nice via the UI, but then I found it wouldn’t load directories, I would need to create those manually.

There wasn’t a nice simple way to do this, I had to try and find a third-party script to make use of the API or use something like Cloudfuse to mount the remote storage. Continue reading…

Running a 4k screen using a Radeon HD 5450

I was the lucky recipient of a 4K monitor recently (an ASUS MX27UQ). So the question of how to drive it arose.

In order to run it at its full resolution of 3840×2160, with a 60Hz refresh rate, I assumed I was going to need a new graphics card, so started looking around. I wanted something fairly low powered (I only have a 150W power supply), silent and less than £50.

It quickly became apparent that I would need a DisplayPort 1.2 card, which supports that resolution. The most common HDMI standard at the moment is 1.4, which only supports 3840×2160 at 30Hz. There are very few HDMI 2.0 cards available (which supports 60Hz), and they’re all very expensive.

I wasn’t looking to do any gaming, so didn’t need anything very powerful. I was looking for cheap and quiet. That combination proved elusive though, with most cards either having a fan, not enough resolution, being quite expensive or no longer available.

I was leaning towards a new motherboard as the cheapest option. This MSI board seems to have all the right specs and I almost bought that, except I realised it’s the CPU that’s responsible for the graphics and my G3258, which doesn’t even have a version on its Intel HD graphics, wasn’t going to cut it. I’d need to buy an i3 chip at least, which made the whole bundle way more expensive than a graphics card alone. Continue reading…