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Posts about Magento, Google checkout or general web development that are currently featured on my blog.

This is a Magento hosting review for Nexcess Hosting. Savy readers will recall, Nexcess sponsored my last Free Magento Hosting competition by giving away one year of free hosting on their entry level plan.

For this review I’ll be looking at the latest offering from Nexcess, the Magento SIP platform. This is a purpose built ecommerce hosting environment that is both secure and optimized. In this review I’ll look at what that security means, and also be running some tests for performance. I have a demo Magento SIP environment set up that you can try, to see for yourself how fast it is.

If you can’t be bothered reading the review below, my bottom line is; if you are prepared to spend the money, this is the fastest, most convenient Magento hosting solution I have seen to date, get it here.

Continue Reading…

Ok, that’s not a really good post title, because it’s actually a PHP error, nothing to do with Magento as such. You’ll only see it on certain systems when PHP is set to report warnings like this (E_STRICT). I’m bundling this into the Magento category because it happened to me when installing Magento on a reasonably simple Ubuntu 8.04. I thought it might be handy to quickly document the solution for other Ubuntu users.

The problem will look like this in Magento:

It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings error in Magento

It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings error in Magento

Which spews out a whole lot of stuff, the most important of which is the message ‘It is not safe to rely on the system’s timezone settings’ and later the suggested timezone, in my case ‘Pacific/Auckland’:

There has been an error processing your request.
Strict Notice: date() [function.date]: It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. Please use the date.timezone setting, the TZ environment variable or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'Pacific/Auckland' for 'NZST/12.0/no DST' instead  in /var/www/magento/app/code/core/Mage/Core/Model/Locale.php on line 498
Trace:
#0 [internal function]: mageCoreErrorHandler(2048, 'date() [storeTimeStamp('1')
#3 /var/www/magento/app/code/core/Mage/Catalog/Model/Resource/Eav/Mysql4/Product/Collection.php(318): Mage_Catalog_Model_Resource_Eav_Mysql4_Product_Collection->_joinPriceRules()
#4 /var/www/magento/app/code/core/Mage/Eav/Model/Entity/Collection/Abstract.php(779): Mage_Catalog_Model_Resource_Eav_Mysql4_Product_Collection->_beforeLoad()
#5 /var/www/magento/app/code/core/Mage/Catalog/Block/Product/List.php(151): Mage_Eav_Model_Entity_Collection_Abstract->load()
#6 /var/www/magento/app/code/core/Mage/Core/Block/Abstract.php(642): Mage_Catalog_Block_Product_List->_beforeToHtml()

The fix is in your php.ini file for Apache. You’ll need to have the permissions required to edit the php.ini file, on Ubuntu that means you’ll probably need sudo access, or root access on systems where you actually log in as root. You can edit the file using this command:

sudo vi /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini

Or if you prefer a slightly less convoluted text editor (but much less powerful):

sudo gedit /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini

The change you need to make is to find the line like this:

; Defines the default timezone used by the date functions
; date.timezone =

To this:

; Defines the default timezone used by the date functions
date.timezone = "Pacific/Auckland"

Of course you may want your timezone, not mine, in which case you should substitute "Pacific/Auckland" for you timezone!

Hopefully that helps others who encounter this problem. The tricky thing is it won’t manifest itself on the CMS homepage, so you might do an install and think everything is fine, only to find that when you finally add categories and actually view one of them, Magento breaks (well… PHP does). So be wary.

Right, so after over a month of putting this off I’m finally going to start writing some Magento Hosting reviews. The first is for Simple Helix. You might remember way back in April when I said I would be reviewing a few Magento hosts, and also running a free Magento hosting competition.

The competition is now over and I will be announcing the winners shortly, thanks to everyone who entered! I’ll compile the list of hosting annoyances you sent in and post it here shortly too. Just to re-iterate my thanks to the two hosting companies that put up prizes, A2 Hosting and Nexcess Hosting.

Enough about the competition, on to the Magento hosting review of Simple Helix hosting. I look at an installation from the point of view of someone doing them all the time. There are a few things I really like about hosting providers in general, the first is SSH access, especially the kind that’s granted by default when signing up. Simple Helix thankfully provide simple clean SSH access (not the ugly cPanel style java applet), which is something that I really appreciate. The other thing I find really helpful is the welcome email – hosting providers always send a welcome email. From a technical point of view I just love it when hosts lay out all of the hosting information in plain text, so I can easily copy paste it, without trawling through screens of fluff. Simple Helix scores points on both of these factors. But I’m sure if you don’t sign up for hosting every month, these kind of things are one off and you don’t really care!

I bet what you do care about is speed, disk space and bandwidth (and possibly support?). So here’s my take on those factors. My initial reaction to the speed question was wow, good – their server pulled the Magento install down at 6MB/s – that’s close over a 10Mbps pipe, so I can tell right away that they have decent internet facing bandwidth. Another indicator of speed is the unzip of the Magento package. If it’s almost instantaneous then you know the hardware is modern, with Simple Helix this was the case. So I knew they had a decent connection and decent modern hardware. The only other question is: how many people do I have to share with! Because that really decides what kind of performance I will get.

Being in New Zealand it’s always difficult to judge exactly how quickly a page will load for users in the Northern Hemisphere. That said, I found the Simple Helix pages loaded really quickly even way down under, and I know there are reports of that not being the case for everyone. One thing to consider is that some users may forget to enable caching for Magento, which is a sure fire way of slowing it down 3-4x, so always enable caching on production installations!

Database setup was incredibly easy, they do not use the standard cPanel style interface, so the usually 3 step process was made simpler and much easier, probably really helpful for people doing their own installations that are not familiar with hosting panels.

The last thing I noted was that Apache mod_rewrite was enabled by default, which I know may seem like an absolutely obvious thing for a hosting company, but I have been surprised by the number of them who do not do this! It is important for Magento SEO to have the rewrites enabled, and to use them, it’ll mean your URL’s can be of the form yourdomain.com/my-keyword-loaded-product-name.html which will help (hopefully).

The price and specs of their plans; $20 for 50GB bandwidth and 5GB of storage and $50 for 100Gb of bandwidth and 25GB of storage are definitely at the upper end of the shared hosting spectrum. In fact for $75 per month you can actually get an Amazon EC2 server, which is what I do personally and highly recommend. I am working on an EC2 AMI for a pimped out version of Magento (with extremely high performance, data security and ease of use) – details to follow in the next couple of weeks.

So what’s my conclusion, Simple Helix Hosting seems professional, modern, speedy and well configured for Magento. Their plans are $20 or $50, which is on the higher side, but it seems to me they’re worth it. If you’re in the market for Magento Hosting, Simple Helix are well worth trying out.

Update: I just want to add that this review and my recommendation of Simple Helix is based on the short time I spent setting up and testing Magento on their platform. I have since read a fair bit of negative feedback about the stability of their hosting and I can’t really comment on this because I didn’t experience it. So please keep this in mind when you are considering my review. Also, I will add that I’d always recommend doing your own backups and not relying on your hosts backup support.

If you have recently hit a brick wall when installing Magento 1.2.1 on a shared hosting service with the error: Database server does not support InnoDB storage engine then you’re not alone. I came across this today while helping with a Magento install (one of my 5 Free Professional Magento installs). There is not a lot you can do, short of installing an old Magento version and not upgrading in the future, which is not a really good solution at all.

My recommendation was to either:

A) Request that your hosting provider enables InnoDB, which may or may not be possible. I notice shared hosting providers find all sorts of excuses for not supporting InnoDB, there looks to be plenty of reasons to have InnoDB enabled to me. This is really easily done by simply not having the skip-innodb line your mysql server configuration. Sadly though if it is in there, they probably opted to put it in there, and may not be willing to take it out.

or B) Move to a hosting provider that does support the new 1.2.x Magento and modern Mysql storage engines properly. That’s not always as easily done as it’s said though unfortunately. Continue Reading…

Here are 3 quick solutions to try if you do not see your Magento store categories after a fresh install of Magento or an upgrade to the latest version. I wanted to post this because I just recently helped install Magento for someone (one of my 5 free Magento installations) and experienced this. The installation version was the latest Magento version, 1.2.1.2 and product categories did not show up on the frontend after they were added in the administration interface.

The top 3 solutions to this in my experience are:

  1. The categories not added as sub-categories of the Default, Root category.
  2. The Magento store configuration has no default category set.
  3. The category cache requires a refresh.

I’ll cover each of these points in more detail with screenshots, so that if you are having trouble with your categories not showing up you can hopefully solve the problem.

Continue Reading…