cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by camil tulcan

I was ready to write off a loss in my server migration. I had, for more than a year, run quietly in the background the cool Thinkup App which had not only archived my twitter activity, but presented it graphically in useful ways.

The thing is it created a monster database, like 900 Mb and so many files in the directory, a copy would not work. The database was too large for the built in export. And the command line failed because Dreamhost does not provide the PHP Zip extensions, and I fumbled around trying to PECL my way into installing them.

So I wrote off my data, thinking I just may forget it or maybe just install it and start anew. At the Thinkup App site I saw a reference under hosting providers

PHP Fog offers free hosting (up to 20MB) and a simple ThinkUp installer.

Ah, the fog… good fog…

It offers cloud based servers for running a wide range of PHP apps, from WordPress to drupal to
Joomla to frameworks like CakePHP and a bunch more I never heard of… and for running ThinkUp App.

They offer a free, forever mini shared server, up to 200 Mb disk space (it looks like up to 2 Gb for the database). Setting it up could not be easier, there is no server twiddling, no setting up anything, ti was literally one click. In about 5 minutes the server was ready, and then I just had to go through the twitter configuration steps to set up Thinkup. It is running now at (waiting for my DNS entry to habe point back there).

The other thing you have to do with Thinkup is have something that will trigger to to run updates. On your own server, you would set up a timed script, a “cron job”, which I am pretty sure you dont get at php fog.

But ThinkUp App provides each service a custom RSS feed- you do not use it to check anything, but if you subscribe to it in your google reader, it will get called and trigger an update back at the server. If I read the docs right, you do not even have to trip it by pulling up reader- it should happen in the background (I am not 100% sure of this yet, I will know in the morning).

You can install wordpress in php fog, with 200 MB you could set up the site, and if you kept your media on other sites, you might be able to run a server there for free.

I am not sure I would do that, but for running some simple apps, this seems like a nifty solution… at the right price.

UPDATE Mar 2, 2011: The feed in Google reader is definitely sending the update sites to Thinkup App without me having to even open it! It looks like the refresh cycle is every 3 hours, which is sufficient IMHO to keep the updates going:

(click to see full size)

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. phpfog is a great model, and I really love the way web technologies are shaping up. phpfog is essentially an amazon web services reseller – they take all sysadmin stuff out of the equation. Really smart. They scale elastically and you only pay for the resources you actually use. I’d say take a look at heroku as another smart platform-as-a-service provider. Now amazon has their own system, called elastic beanstalk.

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