Martian Mirrors [#6]

Photograph of a wooden framed mirror with weather and calendar events projected onto the glass
Do I look Smart in this?

I absolutely love the execution and concept behind this “smart” mirror by Alex Repty (from MartianCraft). Sure, it’s clearly a labour of love rather than a commercial concept, but it’s also the kind of DIY tech project I aspire towards. Everything within the execution is custom made (even if the occasional part, such as the mirror, were purchased) so the end result can truly be called one-of-a-kind. Most impressive of all, to me at least, is that the software is also custom code whipped up to suit Alex’s particular needs. Whilst a “smart” mirror isn’t exactly top of my list of IoT devices, and the cost of the two-way mirror itself is a little off putting, I’d definitely like to try my hand at something similar in the future. Plus, with the whole process neatly written up for everyone to follow, it shouldn’t be too hard to reassemble the concept for my own needs. Top marks all round!

theAdhocracy Mark II: The Rehosting

CSS? Fonts? Italics? Sidebars? What witchcraft is this? Is this not theAdhocracy, the home of plain HTML and nothing more (despite the clear problems associated with that)? Well: yes! But at the same time: No! Technicalities! Either way, welcome to theAdhocracy Mark II (no purchase required)!

There’s nothing too fancy about this change. Updated visuals are provided courtesy of the 2016 default WordPress theme, not my own endeavours. And yes, that means the backend remains WordPress (for now). The host, however is entirely new! I haven’t had the best experience with iPage, what with the multiple outages, lacklustre support, terrible interface and the many, many other headaches I’ve had over the past year. So when I received a frankly extortionate renewal invoice edging towards £200, the the final nail was struck into the coffin.

Since that email I’ve been steadily shopping around and I have to say: woah! The hosting market in the UK has really stepped it up a notch. Prices have plummeted, monthly contracts (rather than annual) are now far more common and generally high quality, well trusted hosting has become affordable. Last year’s runner up was 123-Reg, which would be a simple switch for me as I already host all of my domains with them. However, in the end (and this still amazes me), despite some great offers they just weren’t competitive enough.

Instead, I’ve thrown in my lot with SmartHosting (, not .com, there appears to be a difference). It was a close call between several new options, but SmartHosting’s immensely positive reviews and clear web design swayed me; their price wasn’t too big of a problem either! So far the switch has been wonderful. It is such a pleasure to be using a modern, up to date version of cPanel again (I really don’t think I can stress that enough)! Installing WordPress was quick and easy and allowed me to simply Export/Import my databases. Domain pointing is much simpler and I can already tell that it will be less of a headache to host several websites (i.e. possible) than with iPage.

It hasn’t all been butterflies and rainbows, though largely due to my own errors. I had become “used” to iPage’s archaic folder structure, so just assumed all web content had to reside in the “public_html” folder. As a result, I tried installing two separate websites there and pointed my various domains at the relevant subfolders. Unfortunately, because my “main domain” (this one) seemingly had to be pointed at “public_html” rather than a subfolder, a little bit of URL manipulation allowed you to navigate from this site to any of my others. I was confused and a little frustrated, even if this behaviour made sense to me, because I couldn’t “repoint” this domain.

In the end I opened a support ticket. The reply was disheartening, but frighteningly prompt (I’m used to iPage response times, measured in hours or days) arriving in less than five minutes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t change where the “main” domain pointed; however, I could point my other domains at folders outside of “public_html”. That’s right, the support staff actually offered a constructive solution that served my needs far better than the one I had proposed! This is how support tickets should work and definitely reinforced the smug feeling that I’d made the right decision.

iPage, on the other hand, have had a hit’n’miss final few days. Initial efforts to disable “auto renewal” were rendered moot as the system refused to save/update my preferences. Irritating, but by that point I had already migrated and was happy to just cancel my account. Searching how to cancel, however, requested that I disable auto renewal… a dead end. Instead I attempted to “chat” with their support and was greeted by a five minute count down. It was the weekend, so this seemed fair, but after 10 minutes of “We’ll answer any moment now!” I caved, refreshed and started the count down again. Three attempts (and almost an hour) later I gave up completely and just rang them.

To their credit, this part of the process was swift and painless. I had feared a nightmarish entanglement of prompts and options followed by a fight and multiple offers. Luckily, I received a clear option path to the cancellation team followed by a courteous staff member who only offered his deepest regrets (rather than discount vouchers etc.). The whole process took less than ten minutes and two days later the account (and all my details, web files etc.) are deleted, as I had requested.

To be clear, iPage are not an awful company. They have never seriously screwed me over and the few times I have asked for help, I’ve received it (albeit slowly), but they’re also not great. Their software could be better, their website could be better and their support could be better. At the moment, everything is just about passable, but that means they’re increasingly being left behind by the competition. It also means I wouldn’t recommend them.
Currently, SmartHosting are doing a lot better. Only time will tell if that initial warm glow fades away and, if so, by how much.