Page Speed Service: Google\’s Entry to Content Delivery Network

\"PageIn a mission to \”Make the Web Faster\”, Google announced last week a new service called Page Speed Service. It will compete directly with major players in content delivery like Akamai and Amazon Cloudfront as well as newer services that improves web performance such as CloudFlare, Torbit, Incapsula, Blaze and Yottaa.

In Google\’s test, they claim that the service will speed up your website from 25% up to 60% and to do that you have to set your DNS to point to Google instead of your own server. Page Speed Service then fetches the content from your website and rewrites them with best practices that enhance the page load performance.

At this point Page Speed Service is only available for free to limited testers but you can request access by filling up the form here. The link is also available from Google APIs console.

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Take note that Google will eventually charge you for the service. Pricing is yet to be published and it is unknown whether it will have a freemium model.

Page Speed Service Optimization?

I ran my own tests using the comparison tool that Google provided and I found that the simulated optimized page is actually much slower.

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Right now you can simulate how Google can improve the speed of your website. Some people complain that it actually makes their website slower. Later on, the original post was updated with this note:

We were notified of a bug in the measurement tool that sometimes causes incorrect measurements. If your results indicated a slowdown on your pages, please run the tests again, and make sure you specify a fully qualified domain such as www.example.com. We apologize for any inconvenience and confusion this may have caused.

Details:
Measurement tests run for bare domains (such as example.com, without the prefix www) previously indicated that pages were loading more slowly, rather than speeding up, when using Page Speed Service. The test results page now prominently notifies you of this when you visit this page, if this error applies to you. Please check your old measurement results page if this bug applies to you. Running the tests again with the fully qualified domain such as www.example.comusually fixes the issue and gives you the correct measurement.

So I ran another test and here is what I got:
\"Google

As you can see on my first test, I am using the prefix www so I believe CloudFlare is doing a better job in optimizing my website performance more than Google Page Speed Service. However, on my second test, it seems that Google Page Speed Service is somewhat faster. On both tests, I noticed that the images are not all available in Page Speed Service. I still requested for the service because I want to test it first-hand and not just run it on a simulation.

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Trending Topics in Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader With Summify

\"Summify\"There are so many ways you can discover news on your own and you can easily get information overload as well. With all the options available, people are following news through RSS subscription in Google Reader, tweets in Twitter and wall posts in Facebook. Everyday tons of information bombard us. If you are very busy and you want to selectively read only the top topics on your social networks then Summify is for you.

Summify saves you from overwhelming news by sending you periodic summary of the most relevant news stories, from all of your social networks, and delivers it by email and on the web. By allowing Summify to at least one account in Twitter, Facebook and Google, Summify can analyze your social graph and it automatically selects the best stories for you.

This is how Summify looks like in your inbox:

\"Summify

By default, Summify only sends five stories once a day but you can customize how frequent you want to receive stories. Lately, Summify have also added new features such as domain filters, source filters, dislike and love button to give you more control on what Summify should send you.

You can also allow others to view your summaries and automatically publish summaries through Twitter if you want to share your summaries for public consumption.

For me, it just works because I don\’t have to sift through Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook just to know what\’s trending. This is a big time saver for me.

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Website Speed Optimization with CloudFlare

Nowadays many search engine uses website speed as a metric for ranking specially Google with their mission to make the web faster.

There are many ways to optimize your website or blog so that it will load faster. You\’re probably looking at not just one option because you can use a lot of methods to off load the bottleneck. Compression, mirrors, CDN, caching, and so on. I won\’t go into details on how you can make your site faster. I just like to share my experience with a very unique approach to CDN. I was compelled to finally try this service yesterday.

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CloudFlare protects and accelerates any website online. Once your website is a part of the CloudFlare community, its web traffic is routed through our intelligent global network. We automatically optimize the delivery of your web pages so your visitors get the fastest page load times and best performance. We also block threats and limit abusive bots and crawlers from wasting your bandwidth and server resources. The result: CloudFlare-powered websites see a significant improvement in performance and a decrease in spam and other attacks.

CloudFlare claims that on average, a website using their service loads 30% faster, uses 60% less bandwidth and has 65% fewer requests. With zero-cost and additional performance boost, you simply can\’t beat that offer. My blog is running CloudFlare now and I observed page-load improvements.

Web traffic is also filtered using the intelligent network which help thwarts spammers, botnets and other threats that may harm your website. If any of them get across your website, they will be greeted with a challenge page that looks like this. In my short period of testing CloudFlare already blocked few attacks. I\’m impressed.

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Currently CloudFlare has 8servers distributed around the globe: 5 in the USA, 1 in Netherlands, 1 in Japan and 1 in Hong Kong which was recently opened. The service is relatively new since it was introduced by Techcrunch as \”CDN for the masses\” last year. The company gained momentum after nearly winning TechCrunch Disrupt last year.

It is fairly easy to set-up as it only requires changing DNS settings. If you are skeptical about this and have not tried doing any changes on your domain name, don\’t worry because there are a number of testimonies around the web about this service already. The company also has knowledge-base and community support to help newbies as well as paying customers.

Curious now? Watch a quick video about CloudFlare after the break.

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How to Wisely Use DFA Passport Appointment System

\"\"For all Filipinos out there who are interested in applying for ePassport, renewing their expiring passport or replacing their missing passport, Department of Foreign Affairs is already imposing the appointment system for a while now. For readers who are not familiar or confused with this relatively new appointment system, continue reading.

Basically, the appointment system is supposed to make passport application and renewal more efficient using the website www.passport.com.ph or by DFA hotline 737-1000. Placing an appointment online or by phone is FREE but there are passport fees which are payable later.

Regular Processing: P950.00 (25 working days)
Rush Processing: P1,200.00 (15 working days)
Additional fee for lost passports that is still valid: P200.00
Delivery: P120 (optional)

With the new system, it eliminates long queue because only applicants who have appointments can be admitted during the allotted time. If you applied for a Philippines passport before without the aid of travel agencies, you probably know how long the queue could be at the old DFA office. It saves time and keeps you away from enterprising fixers.

To start with your appointment, it\’s always recommended to carefully read the expectations. You should carefully read the procedures before proceeding and take note of these reminders:

  • Fill-out the online forms and make sure all information are complete and correct, specially your email address because you will receive the printable form and reference number in your email.
  • Please READ all information. Do not overlook a single  requirement detail because it might cause inconvenience later on.
  • Applicants will not be admitted at the entrance gate without valid appointment and application forms.
  • Photocopy all the necessary documents before proceeding to DFA Aseana.
  • Applicants will not be processed if they do not have complete set of photocopies of their documents.

Moving forward, the following is my personal experience on online appointment but the DFA hotline should give similar experience as they are using the same system.

My passport is expiring on March 31, 2011 and I need to renew my passport for a potential business or work-related trip for the next few weeks. Yesterday (March 26, 2011) I set an appointment for my passport renewal and to my dismay, the appointment system schedule is very much off my expectation. The earliest schedule I could get was May 26, 2011. That is two months waiting for an appointment and another 15 workings days for rush processing.

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Two months ago my sister-in-law applied for her ePassport and it only took her 1 month to get an appointment but on my case I have to wait for 2 months. I cannot wait that long because I could miss out an opportunity. I started to get frustrated because I could not find a sooner schedule; I repeatedly hit F5 to refresh the available schedule but I could only get May 26. Waiting much longer is pointless so I was forced to choose this schedule.  However, I know that whenever you apply for a new appointment, the previous appointment will be replaced. Knowing this, I tried getting sooner appointment dates. From May 26, I got May 25, then May 11 and then May 10 — which is still unacceptable.

To help me with my quest to get sooner appointment, I set my browser to auto-refresh the schedule page. I waited for almost 2 hours staring at my monitor but I could not get a sooner appointment. It was 3AM already. I decided to sleep.

I woke up late at around 11AM and the first thing I checked was my computer. To my surprise, there were several slots available on March 31, 2011!  It is a big leap from my previous schedule. Now I only have to wait for 4 days.

If you are struggling on getting an earlier appointment I hope this technique will get you a sooner schedule. I didn\’t try calling DFA hotline but it should give you similar result. If you do not want to pester the call center agents then this method is recommended. This is probably a limitation of the system. The slot is simply made available if someone cancels an appointment and anyone can snatch the freed up slot. Paunahan na lang makasingit.

The new Philippine ePassport is a biometric passport and it has security features including a hidden encoded image, an ultra-thin holographic laminate, and a tamper-proof electronic microchip. For more information about the Philippine passport, go to http://www.passport.com.ph or http://www.epassport.com.ph.

If you have a tip on getting your ePassport (new application, renewal, re-issue of lost passport, extension, etc) or you just want to share your experience, don\’t hesitate to write your comments below.

Update: Just got my passport on May 9, 2011…. so it seems that I paid rush processing (15 working days) and got my passport after 25 working days.

 

P.S. I am not connected to DFA so I cannot answer all your questions. I will try but I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information. Also, please use some common sense before asking a question. You may want to read the comments because it might have been asked and answered already.

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Text Messaging Will Be Outdated Soon

\"\"As we enter into new phase of wireless technology (i.e. 4G) it seems that telecommunication companies have already hinted the trends in mobile usage. People are using more voice and data now with 4G on the horizon. It is inevitable that demand for text messaging will decline.

If anyone hasn\’t noticed yet, more and more people are using IM over SMS because it is more convenient. Not to mention there are lots of conversations happening on Facebook, too. With free Wi-Fi in campuses, coffee shops and even malls, it\’s easier to get updates on people you care about simply by using popular social networking sites like Facebook straight from your mobile devices. As a result, less people are using text message to update friends and family. It seems that \’chatting\’ through text messages will be old fashioned before long. In addition, the market for tablets and smart phones is booming which is another nail in its coffin.

Text messaging had become cheaper lately due to maturing technology and increasing competition. As companies cut margins they get less profit. Some carriers had already increased their prices for text messages and stopped competing aggressively in this segment.

In the USA, AT&T planned to change their pricing for SMS plans. Before, SMS plans can be as low as $5 for 200 messages and $15 for 1,500 messages. With the new price rates the cheapest plan would be $10 for 1,000 messages with $0.10 charge per text if you exceed the limit. If you need more, you can get unlimited text message for $20. This is good news for heavy text message users. But how many people actually practice heavy texting these days? With the new price structure, they are effectively increasing the base price for light text message users, which is probably majority of their subscribers.

In the Philippines, the trend seems to be similar but less dramatic. Smart had recently announced that they would downplay unlimited promo. Instead of stepping up the base price for text messages promo, Smart is making unlimited text promos less accessible for typical Pinoy texters. To me, this is a sound business decision since Smart owns Red Mobile that already caters for unlimited call and text segment so there\’s no point cannibalizing their own market.

I rarely use text message nowadays because it\’s very easy to misread and miscommunicate. Maybe I would still use SMS heavily if Twitter via SMS is supported in the Philippine but that\’s not the case. It\’s good for occasional \’poke\’ but if I want to get the message across I make voice calls. On top of that, unlimited talk is more economical because it is cheaper these days and you get more value from it compared to unlimited text messages.

And that\’s only the beginning. Telcos no longer compete among themselves because the competition had shifted to other means of communication. There are more promos for voice calls today than in previous years, whether for NDD or IDD, since more people are discovering VoIP to make free calls.

Don\’t get me wrong. I am not against SMS or text messages. I am just telling the not so obvious. Expect to see less promo for text messages and more promos for voice because 4G is here already.

What I am anticipating is how soon will the prices of data plans catch up on innovations. More people will eventually adopt 4G even if they don\’t know it. A new cycle will start and hopefully we\’ll get bargain data plans before the advent of 5G.

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WordPress Riskiest Web Software – Trend Micro

\"WordPress\"I was reading Trend Micro\’s 2010 in Review: Most Dangerous List and I could not help scratch my head.

Majority of the items listed are hugely popular and anyone could argue that there is a correlation between the number of user-base (i.e. popularity) that makes any of these items an easier or more convenient target.

Here\’s the top list summary:

  • Hardware: German identification card reader
  • Website software: WordPress
  • Internet Protocol: IRC
  • OS: Apple Max OS X
  • Website: Google!
  • Social Network: Facebook
  • Top-level domain: .co.cc
  • File format: PDF
  • Runtime environment: Internet Explorer with scripting enabled
  • Infection channel: browser

What caught my attention is the information written about WordPress:

Website software: The riskiest software used by websites in 2010 was the popular blogging platform WordPress. Tens of thousands of unpatched WordPress blogs were used by cybercriminals for various schemes, primarily as part of redirection chains that led to various malware attacks or other blackhat search engine optimization (SEO)-related schemes.

This is misleading on several levels.

First of all, this is like saying Toyota is the riskiest car manufacturer because they assemble the best selling sedan on earth, their owners do not maintain their cars in top condition, use 3rd-party parts and car-nappers use them for their crimes.

Anything outdated and left unmaintained will be susceptible to malware and the risk of server intrusion is more alarming than a specific software attack, which leads to the next point — a web host is a bigger target. What Trend Micro pointed out about redirection chains was primarily due to improper web server configuration and not  by WordPress.

Not only web softwares can be hacked to breach security. My blog was once hacked and I was thankful I noticed it immediately. There were javascripts injected in several directories that I mistakenly left writable to public (CHMOD 777) and it was totally my fault, not the software. Browser exploits could also lead to leakage of sensitive information like username and passwords. Remember FireSheep?

The pain point here is that WordPress along with the installed themes and plug-ins, just like any software available in the world, will be at risk if you neglect one portion of your security perimeter.

Blogging vague information is not the proper way to inform readers what is at stake here because a company that offers security products and services should know better that software security is not one dimensional.

Despite the risks, Trend Micro is still using WordPress blog. Ironic.

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Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office

It is a win-win situation for Microsoft Office and Google Doc users as Google released a free plug-in for Microsoft Office that ties Google Docs to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel. It is the result of Google acquisition of DocVerse.

Google Cloud Connect syncs Office documents, slides and spreadsheets to Google Doc and stores it in the cloud which enable online collaboration with other Google Doc users. In a way, Google Cloud Connect is a free alternative to Microsoft Sharepoint.
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Just like Sharepoint, it acts like backend for storing the changes in the document. The changes are not real-time, unlike in Google Docs, but if there are any changes in the document, you will be prompted to resolve the conflicts before saving. And just in case, there is a full revision history in the document where you can revert to earlier versions of the document in one click. You can find more details of the caveats in syncing documents here.

I was looking forward to take part in the testing this week but the demand was so high that I didn\’t get a chance to get into the early invitation.

My concern at the moment about syncing MS Office and Google Docs is about security. I wouldn\’t use this plug-in a highly confidential or sensitive document. Certain companies have policies on what you can upload on the web and what should stay within the intranet, so be careful on what document to sync.

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