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Scott's Column
Application Server Upgrade, Site Redesign, E-Mail for Life

May 1, 2002
By Scott Lewis

I am spending too much time looking for a classic Camaro or Mustang to want to think about this column. But I did get to have some fun with things other than cars.

Site Redesign

After my FrontPage/Windows file naming problem last month I started thinking about updating my site. Once I finished fixing the file naming problem I noticed another problem. My site is taking up too much space on my server. I have been relying on Windows to tell me how much space my site needs. This was my mistake. I only looked at the number of bytes all the files used when I right clicked on the directory the site is stored, and selected Properties. It was a little under 10 MB. But the statistics of my site showed I was using close to 25 MB... and I am limited to 20 MB.

Now.. I would much prefer my hosting service just provide an out of space error when I upload too much, but they just start tacking on charges for the extra space without question. FrontPage's themes use quite a few files. Also, FrontPage, as part of its overhead, creates its own files for every file on your site. These files are small. However, small files still take up lots of space.

Disk Space

Back in the DOS days the OS used the FAT system for files. It created a cluster on the disk for files to be stored in. Every file used disk space the way some repair people charge for time.. every hour or part there of. The cluster size was based on the size of the disk. A 2 GB drive used a cluster size of 32 KB, so every file between 1 Byte and 32 KB took up 32 KB of space. Every file from 32K + 1 Byte up to a size of 64K used 64 KB of disk space. Microsoft came up with FAT32 with Win 95 OSR2. This did away with the 2 GB limit to disk partition sizes, and reduced the cluster to 4KB for drives up to 8 GB.

The copy of my site I keep is stored on a 60 GB drive... which is back to the 32 KB cluster. My site actually eats up over 50 MB of my drive. This is not a problem for me as I still have around 20 GB free. My hosting service is running Linux (or Unix) and it seems to be using a 4 KB cluster (or whatever term Unix uses). FrontPage creates a lot of little files... each of which eats up 4 KB of my 20 MB space allotment.

What I need is a hosting service that uses Windows 2000. The version of NTFS that comes with Win 2K uses a cluster size (if that is even the right term anymore) of only 512 bytes. This makes the file system much more efficient in the total space it needs to store lots of little files.

How Much Is 20 MB

I am still on the fence of a redesign. It would be a lot of work for little benefit. I have net been charged extra for the slight overage from my hosting server... yet. And I am starting to wonder if I will.

When I was trying to trim down my site I wanted to get some idea where all the space was coming from. I wrote a simple utility that would add up the total number of bytes a directory full of files actually used with varying cluster sizes. This program told me that I should only be using a little more than 13 MB with a 4 KB cluster. So I looked around my site with CuteFTP to see where the other 7 MB was. I found quite a bunch of files in directories that I am not supposed to mess with, one was even over 1 MB. Since I don't control these files I have to wonder if those files count against my 20 MB allotment.

I am still thinking about redesigning my site just to get away from all the extra files that FrontPage creates. That should drastically reduce the amount of space my site needs on the server. I would hope this will clear up enough room so I can have a good amount of archived articles. I may even go back to the past and put all the archived articles out there... but I doubt it.

Although I would like to but the entire archive out there, I also have trouble fitting some articles out there. I have written a few articles that have a lot of thumbnail pictures. Remember, each thumbnail picture is two files, the picture itself and FrontPage's extra file. With a few hundred images at 4 KB per image for the extra overhead of FrontPage, space adds up quickly.

The thing I hate the most is that using FrontPage to manage my site is so easy. I love making changes and just pushing a button to publish. FrontPage knows what files need to be uploaded. I also have gotten very lazy, and like using FrontPage to maintain my site. To avoid the disk space problem means I need to use a FTP program to upload my site. But they don't know which files need to be upload and which don't. That means a lot of manual work on my part. Yuck!

What I need it a better GUI design tool that does a good job of maintaining my whole site, can upload only new and changed elements, and is smart enough to delete stuff from the server that gets deleted from my local copy. Is there anything out there that can do this... without the file overhead that FrontPage has?

Application Server

Last month I mention having screwed the pooch on an application server. I started doing some serious digging into all the dependencies on that machine and I was able to recreate it using a spare workstation. Now I have a complete application server under my desk. We use it in conjunction with my test Oracle server so mimic the entire Oracle client/server environment.

The application server does a number of things. Predominantly it is used to offset processing of data in our Oracle clients. By distributing the load to an application server that ideally sits closer to the Oracle server on our network, we should see an improvement in overall speed.

Considering the amount of VB code we have... I really don't see all this providing much of a boost when the clients are about as powerful as the application server (the production app server is an old workstation under someone's desk). When we get the new app server in hopefully it will be plenty powerful and will sit in the server room where the operators can keep an eye on it, and it will get backed up regularly.

Digital Printing

We are moving to a new digital printing process. We have just three month to get one of our products into full production using the digital printing system instead of our existing printing press method.

I would tell you more, but I honestly am still a little confused by it all. Even when I get more into it I will still have to be vague, because that is what I do on my web site when I talk about work.

E-Mail Address For Life

A few years ago, near about the time this site first went online, I got an free e-mail address from iName.com. When they offered these e-mail addresses they we supposed to be for life. Now, this was not a true e-mail account. It was only an address. You have the option of using them for an account, at a fee. But if all you did was setup the address to forward mail to an actual account it was free.

Well, I received an e-mail from the current owners of the iName.com domain/business saying they were going to start charging for the service. I know CNET bought iName.com a few years ago, but don't know who the current owners are. It could still be CNET. I am no longer interested. now that they are not providing the originally promised free e-mail address for life. Oh well, I guess life is about 7 years in this case.

The address I have (had) is ice-man@iname.com. This is the address I used on this web site. It allowed me to keep spam that comes to this address from mixing with my regular mail. Now I am putting my real address out there for all the world.

Note to marketers/spammers: I have never replied to an e-mail solicitation, and never will. Save yourself some trouble and don't bother putting my address on your list, because it will gain you nothing.

The Project Car

New to this site this month is my project car section. I am officially looking for a project car. I am looking for a first generation Camaro (67-69, preferably a 69) or early Mustang (65-70). Either must be a convertible. You can read all about it on The Project Car section of this site.

Here I just wanted to point out a couple of things. I have started a mild redesign of my site starting with the Project Car section. I have created these pages initially with ColdFusion, but mostly in hand coded HTML. I imported them into my FrontPage web site. The key is that all the graphics are ones I creates. I copied the style, but change the color from what FrontPage has been doing for me with its themes.

This will make the number of files my site use far lower. I will gradually change all my pages over to the new look. Hopefully I will get a big reduction in the number of files FrontPage ads to my site. I may also start using FTP software to upload my site and give up on FrontPage's extensions to upload my site. I have not make up my mind on this one yet.

Conclusion

That's it. I am very excited about the Project Car. My brother-in-law's cousin as already agreed to sell us his 65 Mustang Convertible. It is in excellent condition, so my search is to just find something better, for less money.

And I expect to be up to my eye balls in developing our digital printing system. It's fun to be busy.

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