Watch: 2yr-old tests out hilarious singing Christmas toy

A relative sent our two-year-old son this singing reindeer toy that rocks back and forth on a rocking chair while singing quite an interesting jig:


Organizers: Why I use Pocket’s free app for productivity

Ever read an article online and then go back to find it and can’t? I’ve been using a free app called “Pocket” for the past few months, and found that it solves a few problems quite well.

luke-otterstad-pocket-appDownloading Pocket on a smartphone, and activating a browser add-on for desktops, will sync all your devices and allow you to save and categorize articles you read with just two pushes of a button.

Now, when I read an article I think I may want to review later, I just hit the Pocket button in my browser, and then have the option to “tag” it in whatever category it should be in for easier reference. For example, I have a “biz tips” section for business-related articles, and also have several personal categories.

No more time wasted searching for that “really good article.” A simple fix to a time-wasting problem.

Pocket, of course, tries to up-sell you on their paid version, but I haven’t found it necessary. The only annoying thing I’ve noticed is that they send me “recommended articles” to my inbox about once a week. There’s probably an “unsubscribe” for that, but I haven’t bothered to check.

Have you tried another smartphone app like Pocket? Let me know what your thoughts are in the comment section below.

Organizers: Why I use Pocket’s free app for productivity

Why I left Bluehost website hosting

So I found out today that the refund Bluehost promised if I weren’t happy with an upgrade to their “faster” Pro and Cloud hosting practically doesn’t exist.

After running into consistent downtime and slow server speeds with Bluehost, I recently paid an extra $200+ to upgrade to PRO and then Cloud — hoping to get my site to speed up without the hassle of trying to switch to another hosting service.

But my site did not speed up at all and still had several downtimes each week, so I left hosting my primary site on Bluehost and went with SiteGround hosting (which gave me a nice server speed boost and their chat support has always been available within 60 seconds).

However, since I still need a few smaller websites hosted, I decided to leave them with Bluehost just to avoid the hassle of switching, but I thought I’d downgrade the hosting plan to a minimal-fee plan since they aren’t high traffic sites that need speed.

After a half hour waiting for the Bluehost chat tech, I learned after another hour of chatting that if I were to “downgrade” to basic hosting for $7.95/mo that only ONE of my sites would work, since Bluehost apparently recently changed their plans and rates. So he said I’d have to go with their new “plus” plan for about $12/mo. — instead of the $6 or so I had paid for a similar plan before I upgraded about two months ago.

Web HostingSo I confirm with the tech that to “downgrade” to Plus, it would actually cost me an additional $20+, even though I have about 10 months credit remaining on my more expensive Cloud hosting plan. (He also said they can’t cancel the SSL that came with the Pro upgrade, so there’s another $35 charge for that). So to save money, I ironically ended up staying with the Bluehost Cloud plan that I don’t need, and am stuck using a service I don’t even like.

On the positive side, by sharing my experience here, I can hopefully save you the headache of hosting your site with Bluehost.

My recommendation: When searching for a hosting service for your website, don’t use Bluehost if you need reliable speed and uptime, as well as decent customer service. As for which service is better? You can read my review of WP Engine, Bluehost, SiteGround, and others here.

Why I left Bluehost website hosting

Cache plugins: fixing refresh/update issues

Does your WordPress-based website sometimes not show new content after you make a new post or edit? Most likely it’s an issue with your cache plugin.1000px-View-refresh_Gion_simple.svg

Every time I tried to activate a cache plugin to speed up my site, I found repeat visitors were seeing the same content they saw a few days ago when they had first visited. I would disable the cache and the problem was fixed — but how could I get both the speed benefit of the cache plugin, and also have a functioning and updated site?

I did two things to fix this refresh issue:

  1. Removed the .htaccess code specifying “Leveraging browser cache” settings.
  2. Hit “Purge cache” in the cache plugin each time I updated content. (I had to also hit refresh once on my browser, just to reset the settings in the browser cache to forget the old “leveraging” settings — so although a few return visitors may have an older version of the site show up for a bit, going forward, I don’t think this will happen again. (Will update soon)

Question: Are you having issues with your site not showing updated content? Add a comment below if you’ve found a solution!

Here’s the code I removed from my .htaccess file:

ExpiresActive on
ExpiresByType text/css “access plus 14 days”
ExpiresByType text/xml “access plus 0 seconds”
ExpiresByType text/javascript “access plus 14 days”
ExpiresByType application/x-javascript “access plus 14 days”
ExpiresByType image/ico “access plus 14 days”
ExpiresByType image/jpg “access plus 14 days”
ExpiresByType image/jpeg “access plus 14 days”
ExpiresByType image/gif “access plus 14 days”
ExpiresByType image/png “access plus 14 days”
ExpiresByType image/svg+xml “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType text/html “access plus 14 days”
ExpiresByType video/ogg “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType audio/ogg “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType video/mp4 “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType video/webm “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/x-font-woff “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/ “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType application/xml “access plus 0 seconds”
ExpiresByType application/json “access plus 0 seconds”
ExpiresByType application/rss+xml “access plus 1 hour”
ExpiresByType application/atom+xml “access plus 1 hour”

Cache plugins: fixing refresh/update issues

How to clean your coffee maker & improve taste

Does your coffee not taste as fresh as it used to? Did you know you’re supposed to clean your coffee maker every month? (I didn’t until recently.)
Here’s how:
1. Add 3 cups vinegar, 3 cups water to coffee maker.
2. Run the mix through, like you’re brewing a pot of coffee.
3. Pour out.
4. Repeat 1-3, if necessary.
5. Run full pot of clean water through twice on brew cycle (to clean out vinegar smell).
6. Scrub out the pot with a sponge while the vinegar residue is still in it — you’ll be surprised how those coffee stains wipe away!

Now you’re ready to brew a regular pot of coffee!
*You might also like my article called “6 Tips for How to Wake up Early and Enjoy it”


WEB HOSTING REVIEW: Bluehost vs. WPEngine, server alternatives

Bluehost vs WPEngine review, by Luke OtterstadAfter recently “upgrading” to what I hoped would be a more reliable Bluehost server for about $23/mo (Pro Cloud Hosting plan), my site went down mid-day for 22 minutes – just two days after the “upgrade.”

The Bluehost customer service rep. I chatted with online about it suggested I “optimize” my WordPress site and linked me to an article that offered some basic tips about deactivating plugins and simple tips that would improve site speed – not stop Bluehost’s server from going down. I explained to the rep. that his tips didn’t appear to have the potential to stop my site from going down – and he just said “oh ok” and then asked if there’s anything else I’d like help with before ending the chat. I figured I wasn’t going to get anywhere with the guy, so I just hit “end” and rated the experience as a “zero-out-of-10.” (I know the issue isn’t with plugin conflicts on my site, since I had checked another one of my sites on the same shared account and had seen the same “404 Not Found” page.

“404 Not Found”

Tired of hoping no customers would hit the site during the habitual down times (happens about twice a week), I typed in “Bluehost server down” into my search engine and found an article about a guy leaving Bluehost after six years and finding WPEngine.

Hosting alternatives: WPEngine

That peaked my interest into finally looking into Bluehost alternatives, so I checked out the site. I noticed they offer up to $200 commission on sales (whatever the first month of hosting cost is, they pass on to the referrer), compared to Bluehost’s $65 referral rate. This can be a good sign, that there’s money to be made in referring people to the service – IF its actually good. But it can also be bad, as in the case of Bluehost and the multi-level marketer friends we all have, where the money offered for referrals turn can into bribes. By bribes, I mean when the referrer doesn’t promote the service because the SERVICE is great for YOU, but rather because the MONEY is great for THEM. (Notice I don’t have affiliate links peppered in this article — I’m not making a cent on this. Just writing to help others not have to go through the same experience.)

PRICE: The first downside I noticed was the price being $29/mo for only 25,000 visitors per month. Bluehost’s Pro Cloud Hosting plan currently costs me about $23/mo for a 1-year term, and doesn’t have such a cap (as far as I know).

But I was willing to pay a bit more for better service, so I kept checking around on WPEngine’s site.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: The biggest red flag I saw was when I discovered I couldn’t ask a question online quickly through their “chat” box, as it said they were currently offline (it was about 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday). Compared to Bluehost, I’ve always been somewhat relieved to find that their online chat is available 24/7 – even though I’ve had to wait 45 minutes to get someone on the other end (usually it’s under 10 minutes).

Although I prefer online chat for customer support, I thought perhaps WPEngine prefers phone calls and has great phone support. So I called in and was happy to be immediately greeted with a “this call may be recorded” message, assuming that meant I’d get a live person. It asked me to hit “1” for sales, so I did – and then it said their sales department is only open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Wow. That was the deal breaker.

I don’t care how reliable WPEngine *might* be – I know there would be times when I’d need to reach them about a critical hosting issue and not be able to reach anyone on a weekend or after 7 p.m. (which aren’t dead web traffic times). I’ve also found that companies will always prioritize their sales line, rather than their “customer service” line – since at that point there’s no money to be made, unless they lose you as a customer.

If I can’t reach a company for their sales dept. – either online or on the phone – I don’t even need to ask what their customer service is like.

Updated Dec. 8, 2016: So where am I at now? I’ve been with a service called SiteGround for over a year now and am very happy. See my article for more: Why I left Bluehost website hosting

Follow me on Facebook or Twitter to be notified of updates on my hosting search.

Have you found a better hosting service than Bluehost? If so, post a comment below — I’d love to hear your experience.

WEB HOSTING REVIEW: Bluehost vs. WPEngine, server alternatives

Can a photo lie? Watch this 3-minute eye-opening video

Most people know how far from reality an edited or Photoshopped image can be. But can an unaltered photo misrepresent someone too? Can a photo be biased?

This 3-minute video seeks to show that “a photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than by what is in front of it.”

Watch it below and then let me know what you think in a comment below: Can a photo lie?

Can a photo lie? Watch this 3-minute eye-opening video