GPF News Archive

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Howdy, everyone. I know it's been less than a year since the last News update, so a new post is highly irregular and unexpected. Still, there are a few items I wanted to get out to you guys in a more timely fashion than, say, waiting for the next mass extinction. (That will be in 2013, by the way. March 22nd. I have a time machine, so I would know.)

Update on "Financial Crisis": In the previous News item, I told you about our "financial crunch", or the bind we've been placed into thanks to being dumped by one of our major ad suppliers. Well, I wanted to give you brief update on the situation, now that a month has passed. The news is a mixture of positives and negatives, as is expected.

First and foremost, as I stressed last month, GPF isn't going offline anytime soon, at least as far as I can see. We've still got revenue coming in and expenses going out, and for the time being they're still balanced. The issue isn't that we can't pay the bills, but that there's a lot less left over after the bills have been paid. I haven't been able to find a new second-tier ad supplier yet, but I have been a bit more vigilant with our Project Wonderful bids and I've made our Amazon referral links a bit more obvious by including those in the ad feeds as well. (If click on an ad for Amazon here on GPF, we get a small cut of any purchase you make in that session.) I'm looking at a number of ways to cut operating costs (more on that below) in addition to finding new sources of revenue, so this is going to be an ongoing process that I'll just need to add to all the other things I'm currently juggling.

Perhaps the thing I'm most proud of that came from last month's appeal is the growth of GPF Premium. Thanks to the previous post, our subscription rate increased a fair amount. It's not selling like gangbusters, but I'm definitely not complaining. Thanks to renewals and new subscriptions, we've raised our subscription rate up to about 0.63% of our total readership. That's still far below the magic number of 1.7% to cover all expenses, or 3% to make GPF my full-time job, but it's definitely a start. Many of you have opted for the Gold and Platinum levels (1-2 years), which proves you're in this for the long haul, just like I am. My sincerest thanks goes out to all our new subscribers and to those of you who persist in subscribing despite all my attempts to drive you away. ;)

Impending Server Move: One of the cost-saving measures hinted at above is a move to a new hosting service. I wish this was based entirely on research and cost analysis, but the principle reason for the move is that our current host is undergoing a number of changes that will be inconvenient for us and may potentially raise our hosting costs. (Then again, it might actually lower our costs, which is part of the problem. Their changes introduce a lot more variability and thus uncertainty in our billing costs, so it's harder to budget.) The good news is, however, that we have a new host already lined up which is guaranteed to lower our hosting costs from where they are now, as well as increase the performance of our servers and make them more efficient.*

So what will the server move mean to you? Hopefully nothing. The overwhelming majority of you will never even notice it's happened. Unlike the move off Keenspot, there isn't a major change to the underlying system that runs the site. All our existing code will run exactly the same, if not more efficiently, and all the URLs will remain valid. Only two groups of people will have to worry about making changes:

  • Premium subscribers WILL need to re-enable Premium in each of your browsers. This is because we include a few host-specific items as part of the "encryption salt" of the Premium branding cookie, and this data will change in the move. As is usually the case, if Premium ever stops working in your browser for any reason, the first step you should take before anything else is to log into the Account Manager and attempt to re-enable Premium. That should take care of most issues with the minimal amount of effort and fuss.
  • The few folks out there who like to bypass DNS queries by hard-coding domains and IPs in their system's hosts file will need to update to the new IP. If you're one of those folks, you may want to remove those rules until after the move is complete to make sure you're pointing to the right IP. Afterward, you can put the new IP in your hosts file as before. Of course, if you have no idea what I'm talking about, you're not one of these people and you don't have anything to worry about.

Another added benefit to this upcoming move is the addition of IPv6 support. Despite numerous requests from many clients, our current host does not support IPv6 and is unlikely to add support anytime in the near future. The new host, however, has IPv6 readily available. As a test, the blog has already moved to the new host and is already available via both IPv4 and IPv6. We won't have GPF on IPv6 in time for World IPv6 Day, but we should be on IPv6 some time before the end of the month. Welcome to the 21st century!

Jeff's on Vacation: The last thing I want to note is that I will be on vacation all this week. As usual, this won't affect comic updates; there are plenty of strips in the queue so the site will update as usual throughout the week. All parts of the site will remain open and running during this time. (The site is very well automated these days and requires little in the way of hand-holding.) I may, however, be a bit slower than usual responding to correspondence, so it will now take two ice ages rather than one for me to craft a response.

The biggest impact will be on the Store. While the Store will remain open this week and we'll still be taking orders, we won't be shipping any physical products until June 13th at the earliest. Store orders that consist of only GPF Premium subscriptions should still get processed, but there may be a slightly longer delay before I can get to them. Of course, if you'd like to subscribe to Premium and you're willing to use PayPal, you can use the Account Creator and have your account set up quickly and without any sort of human intervention.

* For the propeller heads out there, we're moving from using a 64-bit Linux host to a 32-bit Linux. There are all sorts of debate about which is better, 64-bit vs. 32-bit, but the reasoning behind the "more efficient" statement above is that a 32-bit OS consumes less memory per process. On a virtual private server like the one we run on, memory is a precious commodity, and in our experience a 64-bit OS left us constrained for space. We've already seen much better performance from the 32-bit machine where the blog is now hosted over the 64-bit machine it used to run on. Obviously, 64-bit has significant advantages in other areas, but for our current constraints 32-bit is definitely the way to go. There are no 32-bit offerings from our current host (unless you're willing to jump through some insane hoops and install your own OS from scratch), so this seems to be a big win for us in this regard as well.

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