Time to get back to it, hosting your sites that is. Unless you’re reading through the archives. In which case it was just time to click on the link for the next link. Kind of gets rid of the anticipation though doesn’t it?
Setting up your VPS instance
Sign up for Digital Ocean, and then create a droplet. The instructions I’m going to be giving you are for Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. You can use something else instead, but I like Ubuntu quite a lot, your mileage may vary.
There is a great walkthrough I used on Digital Oceans support site here There are a couple of things that I would say though if you are going to be going through this whole walkthrough and using Easy Engine. My first thought when I install a new Linux server is to install MySQL and Apache. You aren’t going to be using Apache and it was a pain to migrate off of it, so I’d recommend against installing it now. Also don’t install MySQL yet unless you have a specific reason to. Let Easy Engine do it and you can save yourself creating a couple of config files and such. It’ll set a random root password that you can change later if you want. It boils down to just setting up your users, specifically one with sudo access. I also usually set my root password in general when I do a new install. You do that by doing the following:
Enter in your password then put in
Set the password and now your root user has a password set. If you want to do a whole lot of root stuff this can be a nice thing. Just realize that you’re going around all of the security that Ubuntu puts in to keep a static root user out. There are occasions when it can be really nice though so just be aware of what you’re doing.
Also make sure that you have openssh-server installed. Make sure that you can SSH into the box. Once you have the DNS setup you can just use firstname.lastname@example.org where “user” is your username and “domain.com” is any of the domains you pointed at the instance.
Easy Engine is a piece of software that makes setting up your server infinitely easier. You have to get your VPS setup first though as we went through before. The install process at Easy Engine is pretty good and I’d recommend it. It is basically just running a shell script as root. It allows all of your stack to be installed by Easy Engine.
After that I would recommend running
sudo ee stack install --all
That will install anything that isn’t already installed. Also run
sudo ee stack install -php7
That will allow you to run sites in PHP7 mode. It’s super fast, although a lot of older plugins and themes don’t support it. I tried it out on a clients beta site and the landing page loaded super fast, but it wouldn’t go to any other page. I put it back since I could see them wanting their customers to be able to navigate their site. It’s always something with those people, right?
Creating a site with Easy Engine
Creating a site with Easy Engine is pretty easy. As long as you have your DNS updated and it’s propagated out you can go off to the races.
sudo ee site create yourdomain.com --wpfc --letsencrypt
So lets break that down a bit.
sudo ee site create yourdomain.com
That creates a new site. One of the most basic forms of that is
sudo ee site create yourdomain.com --wp
That creates the site with WordPress. It creates a MySQL database and a user for that database. It installs the newest version of WordPress and then creates a user for you. You can specify that in the config file, but if not it will tell you the login details in the terminal session. I make sure to set my default user as the same email address as my wordpress.com account then I can install Jetpack and enable Single Sign On, and I’m off to the races.
The next part is the
That installs the Nginx cache options for WordPress. There are some faster caching stuff out there, but that enables Memcache and some other goodies. It also tends to just work and I can’t be bothered to mess with my caching options all day long. I’ve tried thw w3tc option (wwwtc super cache) and I’ve had tons of issues getting it to stay working. It’s always something with my .htaccess file. I also make sure to enable the image CDN stuff in Jetpack. If you select jump start when you install it you’ll be good on that. It enables it that way.
The last part is
That enables a free SSL cert on it. That’s why I had you create a www A record in your DNS earlier. Lets Encrypt checks for that. It will make a SSL cert for 90 days, but it will also create a cron job that renews it 30 days before it expires for every site you use it on. Pretty cool right? I thought it was. It saved me a ton on SSL certs.
Final Hosting Steps
So your site is installed? Great! Now go to https://yourdomain.com/wp-admin, login, then you’re good to go. I’d recommend installing Jetpack in the plugins section (it’s one of the top featured ones, can’t miss it), activate it, tie it to your wordpress.com account (create one if you don’t have one, they’re free), and click jump start. I also enable monitor on all of my sites so that I get an email if they go down. I also do a couple of other things on all of my new sites, but I’ve already been running pretty long on this. If people are interested I’ll go into my next steps. They’re Google Analytics setup, Google Webmaster Tools, and some email forwarding stuff on the server. Also some WordPress best practices (backup, SEO, Security).
Now you have a functioning web server. Pretty cool right? Now you just have to administer, update, and take care of it (that’s the easy part right?). Do you have a better way of running your web server? Let me know in the comments. Do you have any questions? Let me know in the same place. That’s actually just going to be a good generalization. Correspond in the comments. Yeah, lets go with that.
I started hosting all of my own websites on VPS instances in the cloud. I was sick of the price and quality of hosting in general. I was on a shared hosting plan, like most people that administer their own sites. It was fine when I was just hosting my website, which was really just a place to put my resume and my PGP key. I’ve had that domain for years and use it as my primary professional email domain. I lucked out and got in before Google started charging for a few emails and I’m grandfathered in.
Once I started hosting sites for clients it got to be a bigger issue. The latency and uptime was all over the place. My sites were going down every week. The hosting provider tried to say that they didn’t go down, they just didn’t respond for a while, which seems like an academic distinction to me. Unresponsive is unresponsive. I then migrated all of my sites to a VPS provider. It was pretty good, but I didn’t realize that they were, “Managed,” VPS instances. That means that you don’t have root access, it’s really just shared hosting with less bells and whistles. However the performance was MUCH better. I couldn’t do any of the server optimizations that I really wanted to though. What if I don’t like the compression extensions they’re using? Heck, what if I don’t want to use Apache for a web server? Get a dedicated server was the response from their documentation. I’ve been system administrator on some dedicated servers and I’ll pass. They’re also really expensive. If I need that kind of performance I’d prefer to load balance multiple servers so that I have HA (high availability) and fail-over. Although load balancing your load balancer is an interesting problem. If you want that kind of fault-tolerance with dedicated servers you’re also paying for MULTIPLE dedicated servers which is even more expensive.
After all of that I moved to an awesome service called Digital Ocean. I’ve been with them for a while and I use a similar service in Australia called Binary Lane.
So with Digital Ocean I started hosting all of my sites. I also migrated all of my domains off of my previous hosting provider to a DNS only service. Digital Ocean doesn’t do domain registration which is good, because it forced me to move my domains to a domain registrar that only does that. It’s a good move, because then if you move from one hosting provider to another you don’t have to pay to re-register your domains. I was out over $100USD this year before I realized that. I use Hover, and highly recommend them. They even helped me with transferring/registering some .com.au addresses, and that is an extreme pain. Did you know you need basically an Australian Social Security Number (ABN) to register a .com.au domain? It’s a pain.
DNS Hosting Settings
So DNS is a bit of a black art in a lot of tech. A lot of people say they know DNS and what they really mean is they know the difference between an A record and an MX record, or they know that DNS translates IP’s into human readable URL’s. The core of DNS is simple, but the ways it interacts is not. Also kudos to anyone running a DNS server is a pain. It’s not too bad on Windows, but the O’reilly book on BIND (the major Linux based DNS server) is huge. I got asked in the early stages of my carer to start running a server for the company, and I agreed (because I was an intern and wanted to please). I looked into it and was floored. Fortunately the company wasn’t great on keeping track of it’s ideas so it died a slow death.
Later on in my career, pretty recently actually, I worked on a product that intimately used DNS. The new standards that doctors and hospitals use to communicate with each other and patients use DNS as an authentication layer. It uses DNS cert requests to verify PKI (public key infrastructure). A couple of my colleagues and I looked through a whole lot of DNS routing stuff before we got a handle on exactly what the order was. For instance if I go to a subdomain for a domain does it query the NS record before the A record? It seems like a subtle difference, but depending on that it can go to an entirely different server that doesn’t have the records you need to resolve. We developed a joke that when stuff didn’t work you’d just say, “I don’t know, maybe it’s the DNS?” Now we’re going to go over how to set your DNS settings for your hosting from your registrar then set the other settings on your host.
So in order to host your sites at Digital Ocean and have your domain registration with Hover then you’re going to need to change your name servers for hover. You can set them in the domain settings. You need to change them to the following:
Then you’re going to need to change the DNS settings on your Digital Ocean account. You can do this by navigating to networking along the top, then going to networking. Then you can select domains. Add the domain that you have. then go into it. You’re going to want to set an A record for both
I’d also create an A record for
and then create an mx record for
You should see the IP for your droplet get entered into your records. Set all the A records to that IP. You can also request a floating IP and use that as well. I just used the one that was included. If you can’t find it then SSH into your VPS and run
That should give you the IP (it’s not the loopback one).
Your DNS should work now. You can verify by running nslookup on your machine (if you’re Windows). However for the purposes of this I’ll just recommend using an online service. A good DNS server to check against is 22.214.171.124. That’s Google’s DNS and they’re pretty good. I also sometimes use 126.96.36.199 which is Verizon.
That concludes Part 1. Next time I’ll go over getting your VPS and the management layer of your server set up. What, you can’t wait for the next part? TOO BAD! BWAH HA HA HA!!! Sorry, but these walk-throughs get super long, so I’m splitting them up. If people hate that let me know in the comments. It seems like a few thousand words in a row is excessive, but what do I know?
We return to our heroes deep in their quest to buy DAO (or bitcoin, or just reading stuff on the internet to justify their curiosity, no judgement).
So you deposit some money in your account what’s next? You buy DAO with something called ether. It’s the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum platform. So your first thought might be that you want to go to BTC then get your ether right? That’s what I did, and I would recommend against it. You cannot trade BTC for ether on your exchange. However you can trade fiat currency for it. You take a little hit whenever you convert currency to crypto-currency, and when you exchange crypto-currency for another. It’s not a lot, but it adds up if you keep doing it, also if you’re talking about a bit of money 3%-7% is probably more than you’d care to just throw away on bad planning. So you can buy your ether, then you’re going transfer it to your ethereum wallet. Here is a bit of a digression. I’m going to go over how to convert your BTC to ether for the people that either already have some BTC, or made the mistake (like I did) of not going straight to ether. If you haven’t bought the bitcoin then I would recommend just buying the ether directly from an exchange then transferring it to your wallet, although the wallet setup for Ethereum is the same regardless.
So you want to get the Ethereum wallet to do your DAO transactions all according to plan right? Great! If you’re based in the USA it’s probably not going to be a huge problem. However if you’re overseas, or in an area that either doesn’t have great internet or a lot of people around with an ethereum wallet you’re going to have issues. I spent about two days trying to get my ethereum wallet to sync. I have a couple of tips though to make it easier.
Go here to download the newest version of the Ethereum Mist Wallet. Download the version for your system. I’m going to assume that people are mostly on Windows. If people want a mac version of the walkthrough let me know and I’ll add it, although I don’t have a mac currently so it won’t have a ton of screenshots or anything. The syntax for the commands should be the same (since they’re using Go as a language), although the paths to the stuff won’t be. If linux users want a walkthrough I can do that as well.
Unzip the wallet, then open up the Ethereum Wallet executable. If you’re in the USA and have good internet you’re probably OK. However it’s going to take a long time. The wallet is downloading a full version of the Ethereum blockchain, and on my system that is currently taking up 18.7GB of data. If you want it a bit quicker and you’re on a new install of Ethereum you can do it quicker. Yay! Although you need to do a bit in the command line. So open up your command line/terminal (on mac) and navigate to the folder where your Ethereum wallet is. Then go into /resources/node/geth. Geth is a command line version of the wallet. What we’re going to do is use it to use the fast sync option. So put in
This will do a quicker download of the whole blockchain. However it will only work if you have an empty chaindata folder. If you don’t then run
Then confirm that you want to remove the DB. This will still take many hours though. What I had to do was run it on a VPS instance I run in San Francisco (I installed it first of course). Then exported the whole blockchain
geth export chaindata.bin
Then gzip it and SFTP it over to my laptop in sunny Sunshine Coast. You have no idea if you’re on good internet how low the timeout periods are on some stuff.
Buying DAO with Ether
So you have your wallet right? Pretty easy right? No? Well too bad, now you have to buy your DAO.
So we’re going to go in and buy your DAO. Open up your Ethereum wallet and let it sync, it might take a couple of minutes. Now you can either use the default wallet, or create a new one. I would create a new one if I were you. Create a strong password for it. A short snippet of a quote that you’re familiar with is good, include the punctuation and capitalization.
Now we’re going to back up your wallet. So go to Accounts -> Backup -> Application Data along the top menu. Then backup the folder in there. If you ever make a new Mist wallet install you just need to copy these folders back into here for a new install. I created an encypted .7z file (7-zip) to keep them in, but you might not be as paranoid as me. So now we’re going to get ether with Bitcoin. If you bought ether on an exchange you can just send it to your wallet address now. Click deposit ether using bitcoin. You’ll need to specify the transfer you want. I am also going to save you something that took DAYS to sort out. Make sure when you’re transferring bitcoin that you go abou .1BTC below the max deposit/deposit limit whichever is lower. If you go over you have to contact Shapeshift.io and get them to sort it out. Although their customer service was awesome and sorted me out every time. So now you have some ether right? Settle down, we’re almost done.
So when the DAO started you got DAO by sending Ether to an address on DAOhub. I don’t think that’s how you’d get it today, but we’ll go on with it. So DAO is shown entirely by the ether wallet address that you have. You can put in your ether wallet address on DAOHub and you can see your balance. Make sure you have the right address! You can’t generally get your ether/bitcoin back from people. If you include a refund address and you send it somewhere bogus then I believe it will go back to you eventually.
I learned a lot taking care of this, and am now setup to get crypto-currencies whenever I want. That’s pretty nice. It was a bit of a headache though. I’m not sure I’d recommend it to people, I do prefer transferring bitcoin to my friends to settle up checks and bartabs as opposed to using Paypal or Venmo, or that Square service I couldn’t get anybody I know to use. It’s also international which I like. I also like being able to put some of my cash in Coinbase so that if the dollar tanks I’m not screwed.
Have any other questions? Had some issues yourself? Put it in the comments you wonderful person you.
So you want to buy some DAO
So you want to buy some DAO. Good for you. It sounds pretty cool right? I’m a big fan of decentralized autonomous democracy. It also gives a lot of entrepreneurs an alternative to either the VC or bootstrapping route (aside from crowdfunding, which can be a headache). You have some money in the bank and you want to get you some DAO. A few things you’re going to need in order to do that. You also need to decide how much privacy you need. First off you’re going to need to get you’re hard earned fiat currency (USD, AUD, EUR etc.) and convert it into a cryptocurrency.
So you have some options here. I’m going to go over a few of the ones that I looked at when I was picking one. I will also tell you that if you’re on the road like I am it’s a much bigger pain then if you aren’t.
So I ended up going with Coinbase (referral link). It isn’t available in every country, but it is in the USA. Although I was helping out a friend get setup in Australia and it isn’t available here. You can do a bit without proving your identity, but if you want to start shifting more than a couple of hundred dollars you are going to need to put in a lot of identifying info (e.g. ID scans, phone number, address). There is a limit of $40USD/day on debit card transfers, which is a bit of a pain, but you can transfer in a lot from a bank account with no fee in a few days which is very nice. If you want to keep transferring in via your card you can set it to transfer in the same amount every day until you disable it. Although you’re paying about 4% on your transfers as opposed to 0% on bank transfers.
Coinbase has a great app that you can use as a wallet as well. Although I’m not sure how I feel about keeping all of my BTC (bitcoin) in an online wallet. The 2FA (2-factor authentication)) is pretty good too, and it accepts foreign phone numbers. Although if you register with an IP overseas you have to send in a copy of your passport or drivers license (as I figured out the hard way). So if you are overseas you might want to use a VPN to get around that hassle.
Circle is a pretty popular exchange, and I saw some good reviews on it. However I was unable to even login because they kept saying my phone number wasn’t properly input. I tried it in every way I could think, and it still didn’t work. I currently have an Australian number, so that might be it, but I saw a lot of people online that had the same issue. I’m not comfortable using a service that requires 2FA that isn’t rock solid, but it might work great for you. Who knows?
I actually tried again while writing this and I think that the issue is that their phone number verification is checking for phone numbers in US format. For instance the area codes in Australia are xx instead of xxx. There are a bunch of countries like that and Circle should fix it if they require SMS verification to open an account and they want to say that they’re a worldwide provider.
247 Exchange was actually the first exchange I tried, when I thought this whole thing would be much more straightforward than it was. The interface is pretty basic, but that doesn’t bother me much, but the fees were pretty high. Also the identity verification was pretty slow. They took long enough that I ended up going with a different exchange both for me and my friend. You get pretty large initial limits though.
On further inspection it doesn’t look like it supports American bank accounts. Also I couldn’t find out any way to transfer bitcoins out of it. Which is pretty weak. However that might have just been because I didn’t have any BTC there.
So with Cex.io I had some issues getting my documents together. Mostly it was that I was working at a cafe at the time and I didn’t have my passport card with me. I’m going through the identity verification now, so hopefully it will work out. I already have an account with Coinbase, and I like them, but I like the idea of being on two exchanges in case one of them has issues. I also keep some BTC on a mobile wallet (which we’ll cover in a bit). My friend ended up going with cex.io (on my recommendation) because they accept Australians, and I think they do most countries as well. They are a very reputable exchange, although they aren’t especially loved in the cryptocurrency community because they were big in cloud based bitcoin mining. That is mostly politics in the community though and has little to do with how safe your money is, or how good their service offering is.
So once you’re verified (name, ID, address, proof of residency like a bank statement, and a photo of you holding your ID), you have a very large limit on debit card transactions. It was about $3000/day for my friend. Although you end up paying about 4% on the transactions. You can add a bank, but it’s just a SWYFT transfer (international wire transfer), which is pretty pricey. I’d probably just go with the card. It’s too bad they don’t have like an ACH transfer or whatever the equivalent is internationally. It’s probably a international banking thing.
Update: While I’ve been writing this I found out that cex.io can’t do business with residents of Oregon. I maintain a residence in another state, and could have just added that address, but they didn’t mention it the first time I filled out their info. You also have to submit a ticket to delete an account, which is awesome. I probably won’t be going back there again. However if you’re international they are still a good option.
I like Bitstamp’s overall look. It’s pretty straight to the point. I haven’t been able to verify my identity yet because they have very low timeouts set for their verification document uploads. I’m not sure if that is on purpose for security reasons, it can help prevent types of DOS (denial of service) attacks, or if they just didn’t think about it. I’m looking forward to getting on some better internet and then checking out their offering.
I took another look. They are on the list of places that don’t allow people with residency in Oregon to buy bitcoin. So I’m in the process of switching my bank to another state then I’ll try again.
So if none of these are good options for you, I’d highly recommend this article at 99 bitcoins
We will continue next time with how to get your Ethereum wallet setup as well as some tips (hard won tips I’ll tell you) on how to minimize the time it takes to download the blockchain for the Ethereum wallet, also how to get DAO.
So you’re working remote. You have a deadline, and you’re saaaaay in Southeast Asia, like me. Where can you get it done? I know some people that work quite well from lobbies in hostels. Personally if I need to get more than three hours or so of work done per day I need someplace quiet to work. At hostels I always say that I get distracted by fun.
“Hey Noah, you want to go to the beach?”
“Wow, that sounds like way more fun than what I’m doing!” Clack goes the laptop shut.
I’ve tried a few different ways of doing this. I’m not sure if you thrive on chaos in a work environment; I’ve met a few people who do (ie. development bullpens shudder).
I’ve was working in Kuta, Bali at a coffee shop quite a bit near the end of my time there. It was great. They had actual ice tea, yes that is ACTUAL ice tea. If you haven’t been out here before you don’t know how rare that is. Most of the ice tea is basically syrup. Aside from that it was some of the only decent WiFi I had found on the island.
This bares mentioning. Most hostel Wifi sucks. It’s not even an issue with the connection. They are using consumer grade routers with WPA/WPA2 encryption. Those routers were only designed to work with maybe 4-6 devices and a lot of the time they are supporting 30+ devices. In addition to that they are almost never configured by someone familiar with the idea of signal interference, or any of the other quick ways of increasing signal strength in wireless networks.
Back to the coffee shop though, I was working there every day for 5-7 hours. It was great. Aircon, good food (although pricey), not too long of a walk, and the internet was fast enough that I wasn’t waiting 20 seconds every time I clicked on something on a server I was remoted into. Also they gave me a cold towel to wipe off the sweat when I came in, and they had power outlets at the tables. The pluses were many, but there were some downsides too.
I was averaging $7-$10 per day while I was there. That was a big glass of iced tea, a small glass of iced tea (after lunch), and a burger. The burger was really good, they put beets in it sometimes, who knew that would be so good? I was hitting my deadlines and making money being there, so it didn’t really bother me, but that’s a bit of money in Bali. I was only paying $6/day for my dorm room, and street food was about $1 for a meal. It might not be worth it to you, depending on how much income you’re pulling in on those days. If I was only working one or two hours I might not have paid for it.
I used primarily used mobile data to connect in the Philippines and India, although I used it a little bit in the islands in Southern Thailand. The data was not bad in either place, and it was much faster then the WiFi. I WiFi tethered my phone to my laptop to connect. It is pretty easy to setup and almost all smartphones support doing it. Just remember that you need an unlocked GSM phone to use it outside of the USA. Other countries don’t need to worry as much. BTW it’s almost impossible to get a SIM card in Sweden if you aren’t a citizen (if you can it’s super expensive).
In India most places are using a mobile dongle connected to an access point (router). So your phone will have as much bandwidth as the rest of the restaurant/bar/cafe combined. It’s a pretty easy sell. In Goa it ran me $20 USD/10GB of 3G. I was getting about 5-6Mbps, but the latency was pretty high. This was not in the major areas of Goa either. It was in a pretty small fishing village. Also getting an Indian SIM card is a bit of a pain. I’ll link to a walk-through on how to get one.
In the Philippines the SIM cards are cheap and so is the data. It’s not as cheap as India, but few places are. I paid $30/month for unlimited 4G when it was available and 3G everywhere else. It was pretty good. I used Smart based on some reviews I saw online. You can buy prepay credit almost everywhere, although the SIM cards can be a bit hard to find if you aren’t in the city. Grab one in Manila or Cebu if you go through there. I was able to get some work done in the hostel on my bed while tethered, but I kind of wish I had someplace quieter. Eventually I ended up connecting to my phone and combining it with the next option.
Some hotels do have decent WiFi. The one I’m writing this at has excellent connectivity. Thailand in general has had good internet. Koh Lanta didn’t, but it’s one of the smaller, less developed islands. Phuket is fine here. They are connected via fiber. I lead with this because I paid $25/night in Cebu City for a hotel because I thought it would have good wifi. It didn’t. The room was nice though and they had room service, and McDonalds delivery (don’t judge me). Even if you are tethering to your phone it still might be worth spending the extra money on the room if you need to get a bunch of work done. I’ve been working full time here in Phuket, and in Manila and Cebu City I took a week or two each to get some work out the door and have a break from the craziness.
The private room is a good compromise, if you don’t want to become a hermit like I tend to when I’m working a lot. You have your own space to work, but you can come out in the evenings and see people and socialize. I did this for a few days in Manila before I went to Nepal. It was nice. The hotel can be more social if you know people in town, but it’s much harder to meet people traveling outside of a commons area, and hotels don’t have those. If you’re lucky they’ll have an overpriced bar.
I personally can’t stand working at restaurants unless I don’t eat anything. They sometimes have decent WiFi because people are usually just checking FaceBook instead of talking to their friends and they’re not streaming movies. The one exception I’ll put on this is hotel restaurants. People tend to leave you alone and people don’t talk. I still don’t like eating while I’m working somewhere else, but I feel more comfortable doing it at my hotel, although I did eat every day in Bali while I worked, so maybe it’s a comfort thing. It feels weird to me to work at a restaurant. Even at a hotel I’d prefer just to get room service or have something delivered.
The closest I got to an apartment, so far on my travels, is an apartel (apartment/hotel) in Manila (specifically just outside Makati). It was pretty nice. the WiFi was bad, but the mobile connectivity was good, and they delivered a lot of fast food (you can see that Manila was not good for my health). I had one of the nicer rooms I stayed at in the Philippines, and it was only $20/day. I even could have cooked there if I had felt like it.
I know some people that love co-working spaces. I’ve never used them much myself. I was in Koh Phagnan and was right next to one. I went up to it, because I figured the internet would be better then at my hostel. It had a dog in the lobby that hated me, and kept trying to bite me, which was weird because dogs usually love me. No one knew whose dog it was, and nobody was working the desk. I thought about going back later, but it didn’t seem like a place that was conducive to concentration. Other than that it looked quite nice and apparently had dual fiber hookups for fail-over.
I am going to be looking more into co-working spaces if I stay in a city long enough to justify getting setup at one, but I haven’t so far. If I find one I like I’ll be sure to post about it. I did a preliminary check in Bangkok, but the reviews were ho-hum. I’ll check them out if I end up grabbing an apartment there.
Now we’re back to hostels. I mentioned before that I can’t get a full day of work done at hotels, but I can get some done. I worked maybe 20-30 hours/month through the beginning of my trip in the Philippines, and I did work in Goa, but that was a two bed private with my buddy.
When I say hostel I specifically mean dorm rooms. The issue for me was that when people walk in and see you on your laptop they feel the need to engage. They think that you are a shut-in that won’t leave your room due to some issue. It’s an admirable reaction because they’re trying to help, but it’s also annoying when you’re interrupted every hour or so by someone talking to you. I mean if I’m on my bed with headphones and a laptop I probably don’t want to talk. Maybe other people don’t have that issue, but if you’re social and get to know the people at the hostel they will talk to you no matter what. It sounds weird, but if you aren’t on the first floor, or next to the commons area it’s less of an issue.
I’ve done a bunch of talking about where I’ve found the best internet, but I haven’t went into how I judge it. I have pretty specific requirements, but this should give you a good guideline for checking. My requirements are that I need to VPN (secure connect) to a server back in Portland, OR, access servers there, websites, and general web browsing for research.
I have an app on my phone that’s a speed tester. It’s called Ookla. It’s the speedtest.net app, so if you are on a laptop you can also just go to Speedtest.net There is an Android and an IOS version. It doesn’t give all the data I’d like in a speed tester, but it’s free and easy to use. I’d prefer to get package loss and jitter, but we can’t have everything. I take the throughput (higher is better, but 3-5Mpbs is generally enough) as well as the latency (lower is better). I also bring up my FaceBook and see how long it takes to load the news feed. I sometimes bring up a youtube video and see how long it takes to buffer. I also like to go to a couple of blogs that I read and see how fast they load (arstechnica, hackernews, etc).
What I Used
Here is a breakdown of what I used in all the places I’ve been. This is for work. If I was just messing around on FaceBook then it doesn’t really matter how fast the internet is, just that it runs at all.
- Some tethering, but I was on international roaming so it was epensive and slow in the rural area where I was staying
- Mostly mobile 4G/3G
- I used WiFi some before I left Manila because I was in the heart of Makati which has pretty good connectivity and was one of the only places with good WiFi I found in the country. The only other place was in Malapascua, which is weird because it’s a really small island.
- I was only ever able to get my email to work on the WiFi there. If you’re staying in Kathmandu it might be worth it to grab a SIM card. I spent a lot of time in smaller towns though so it didn’t seem worth it.
- I used WiFi, but was pretty underwhelmed. I had heard Singapore had great WiFi, but the place I stayed at didn’t. To be fair it was really cheap for Singapore.
- I had a SIM card here and it worked okay, but in Jakarta my hostel had great WiFi, and in Jojakarta I didn’t do much work. In Bali once I found the coffeeshop I didn’t use anything else
- In Malaysia I used mostly WiFi. I had a SIM card but data wasn’t cheap so I didn’t use it too much. In Penang it was pretty bad. In KL I stayed at an incredibly cheap hostel the first time, and the second time I was working quite a bit, but I was staying with a friend that had an apartment with fiber.
- The internet in Thailand is great. I had a SIM card too, and when I wanted faster internet I would use my SIM card, but the WiFi was good. It’s what I’m using now.
So I was going over my blog and my personal website, and trying to get them both up to snuff. I finally decided, after much waffling, that having two sites didn’t really make sense. I imported all of my old posts from By the Moon and the Starts and tried my best to make my homesite not look too terrible. So I am planning on going ahead and posting more on this site going forwards.
I’m done with the jumping from one place to another thing for a while, and I’m going to be focusing more on work and other projects. Hopefully this will lead to me having some things to say about the projects I’m working on, as well as how it feels to switch back into a more traditional working mindset. Now granted, I say that as I lay in bed in Phuket typing on my laptop. So onward and upwards as they say.