In Search of the Ellusive Piss Pot

“And when he wanted to go back, down to earth,
the earth was an overturned piss pot
And he was all alone…”
Tom Waits – Children’s Story

Here we go again, back to Boston in another life, when I was a waiter at one of the restaurants there and had a friend named Jack.

Jack was a waiter too, but he always seemed to be on the edge of getting fired. Somehow he managed to stay, though, week after week and month after month. Jack was always very entertaining, in between customers, lots of jokes and stories. Smoking cigarettes, stealing food, laughing. We made pretty decent money there, but Jack was always broke and switching apartments.

Every night after work, we’d all go out on the town. 11:30 pm to 5:00 am was party time. Then we’d get up the next afternoon in time for work. Lots of times after work I’d be standing at the bar gabbing to Jim, the head of Jack’s crew.

“Look at Jack”, he’d say, “Can’t afford a pot to piss in and there he is buying drinks for the house…”

Sure enough, Jack would be there laughing and slapping…
“Waddayou drinkin’ man? Johnny, set em up! Suzy, git over here! Wadda ya drinkin’? Haw Haw!”

Jack and I worked the same job and made the same money. Even with all the late nights, I had so much I didn’t know what to do with it and had to stick it in a savings account. Jack was always broke. One time after yet another eviction, Jack needed a place to stay. I had a summer rental on the Cape so I told Jack he could stay in my basement apartment in Cambridge. When I got back a couple months later, my window was opened and the tv was gone. I said, “Jack, you left my damned window open!” “Oh”, he said, “I’m sorry man.”

A few weeks later he came over to me at work, grinning from ear to ear. “Hey man, I just quit! I’m outta here! I’ve got this great job starting tomorrow. We drive around different states and when we get to a town, we all get out and sell stuff. Then we get back in the car and go to the next town. It’s all expenses paid! I’m gonna be rich!”

“Uh”, I said, “You already quit?” “Yeah!” said Jack. “I’m outta here!”

“Well, good luck then.” I said. “Call me when you’re in town.”

I never saw Jack again, but I never forgot him, you had to give him that much.

Whatever he’s doing, I hope he still has his sense of humor. I hope he still likes to take chances.

And I kind of wonder if he was ever able to afford that piss pot.

56kb here I come! Uh, maybe not.

Since I don’t really need the 20 mb cable connection for internet, and I’ve used up all my promo prices with Comcast, I thought, “Hey, I could see what my old host Mindspring has to offer!”. Put in my address….low and behold, I qualify for a 56kb connection, which was very speedy about 15 years ago, but now? Nah, I’ll keep paying the cable company. Geez.

A New VPS and Prestashop Rambles

Okay, here we are with the same ol’ stock WordPress theme. Eventually we will tinker with it, but for now Prestashop and our new VPS are consuming all the time available. (we’re even too damned busy to make the links affiliate links).

We stuck with Pair Networks for around 15 years. They were perfect back in ’96, and as far as I can tell, they still are, pretty much. They’re just way too expensive and don’t offer all the add-ons that the new kids on the hosting block are coming up with. And a lot of the add-ons they do offer are expensive, while the new kids offer them for free. But enough of that; they’re a good host; I just moved on, maybe I got bored.

The first host I moved to was Cloud Web. Actually, I’m still there. They use a “cloud based software” on their servers, which as far as I can tell, your site is spread over several servers, possibly in virtual environments. If something crashes a server, your site is still up. Basically, for my money, their quality is great, their support is top-notch, their price is cheap and my sites are always up. It’s still a shared environment, but what the hell? It “just works”.

My larger site (2000 products on static pages) seemed to work fine on Cloudweb, but I was nervous that it was just too cheap for such a big site. I was rebuilding the site in a subdirectory using Prestashop, and I worried that I’d end up with a slow database full of 2000 products on a shared server. They offer very inexpensive VPS packages, but they’re unmanaged. Not that I mind “unmanaged” when it comes to my office servers (uh, I’m the manager) but for my main business site? Yikes.

So for the larger site, I took a queue from the Prestashop forums and tried out a fully manged VPS on Hostgator. The name “hostgator” and the tacky gator cartoons turned me off in the past, but in the Prestashop forums, everyone seems to like them for a Prestashop host. What the hell; I use “godaddy” for my domains. So what? I’ve gone tacky; (I used to just be sleezy).

Anyway, I’ve got 30 gigs of space, 2.4 gigs of processor and .75 gigs of RAM for ~$50/mo. I actually tried their business package first, around $11/mo with a Free SSL Certificate (!!!) but I got nervous about the shared server thing. So now I’m on a VPS. I’m root (the power, the power), I can create new sites with new cpanels and we be super fast. My other smaller sites are doing fine on Cloudweb, so I’m leaving them. My big site’s got a big fast home. I should mention, and this shocked the hell out of me, both Cloudweb and Hostgator will move your sites from your old host to your new one for free. I guess that might be standard with hosts these days, but I’m used to having to do everything myself from the command line. Weirdly enough, they moved all my databases and they still worked!

So we’re about a third of the way transferring 2000 products to Prestashop in the subdirectory. It’s easy enough that employees can help, so I figure another month or so. I like a ton of things about Prestashop. For one, it’s the first database e-commerce system I’ve seen that didn’t look god-awful commercial. Designing your own look is fairly easy because all the designing is CSS and all the complicated stuff comes from modules, most of which are already developed and either free or somewhat inexpensive. Why move such a large static site to database? Because it’s only getting larger, putting off the inevitable, and the third-party shopping cart I am still using until September (Americart) has few of the features my customers want. And their support is iffy. (If they know the answer you’ll get a response.) For $300/year.

Furriners. We like furriners. We like Euros. Prestashop (a European shopping cart solution) easily translates your entire site to a bunch of different languages. I’ve even got a module that tells where a visitor is from and automatically switches the site to that language. Assuming I have it set up. In other words, if you’re from Somalia or Nigeria, I hope you can read ‘murican. Actually, I think I have Prestashop set up to keep bad countries full of con artists and terrorists out. Uh, like go away.

That’s enough for now. I just moved this site to the new VPS just to see if I could do it. Yep, it worked, even the wordpress database. Fun is over, work beckons….