Review of VPS hosts in Korea

Popular providers like DO, Linode and Vultr all have presence in Japan… but not in Korea, the country with the fastest internet connection on the planet, which is a shame.

And due to the language barrier, it’s pretty hard to find info on Korea-hosted VPS on the internet. This post aims to solve that

Straight to the point –

Cafe24

Probably the most popular host in Korea. They host websites, wordpress installation, bare metal server and of course… VPS. Here’s the price

Starting from $5.5 for 1GB RAM to 33$ for 4GB RAM, per month

Pros

  • You get 8 cores regardless of the plan
  • VMWare Virtualization
  • One dedicated IPv4 address
  • The best price you’ll get of any reputable provider
  • Select between Linux / Windows (costs more)
  • Pretty fast disk (twice as fast as Vultr)

Cons

  • Setup fee 22$
  • Pretty limited bandwith, 300GB per month at the worst case
  • Crappy CPU, the cores are really slow (I think they are second-gen Xeons), with most of the CPU extensions disabled… so they are only good for one thing: serving web pages (and no, they can’t do THAT thing you are thinking about when you read “8 cores” 😉
  • Of course you must speak Korean to register or contact support
  • Require a Korean ID

You can register for them here

Somagu (mud fish)

Cheapest provider I could find that have servers in Korea. Pretty simple interface. Prices

Starting at $2.57 permonth for 512GB RAM

Pros

  • Korean hosted
  • English support
  • Automatic activation
  • Cheapest of anything you can find in Korea
  • Don’t require a Korean ID

Cons

  • You get to share IP
  • Your shared IP is used by Chinese spammers… you’ll see a lot of IP change request in the support forum. I don’t know why but for some reason Chinese spammers love themselves a Korean address

You can find them here

iwinv

Price

From $4 per month for 1 core / 1GB RAM

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Free IP

Cons

  • Korean only
  • Requires Korean ID
  • Limited bandwidth

You can find them here

Amazon lightsail (Seoul region)

Available countries

Recently made available in Seoul, cheaper than EC2, a good choice if you are already tied into the Amazon ecosystem

Price starting from 5$ for 512MB RAM

Pro

  • Reputable
  • Easy to use
  • All in English
  • Don’t require a Korean ID
  • Generous bandwidth

Cons

  • More expensive compared to other options

Find ’em here

Amazon EC 2

Pro

  • Like lightsail
  • Much more versatile

Cons

  • Way way too expensive, unless you are a corporate user

You know where to find them

PHP school

Starting from 4,900 won for 512MB RAM

Cons

  • Pretty slow… can’t open their homepage at the time of writing

Find them here

Naver cloud

Starting from $13 for 1GB RAM

Pros

  • English support
  • Reputable company
  • No bandwidth limit

Cons

  • Expensive like EC2

You can find them here

Comeback

And that’s it! over 3 months since I ever had a thought about blogging! Maybe I wouldn’t make a come back this soon if Matt over there didn’t wrote that scary post about the recent WordPress worm. I’m invulnerable to it since I turned off user registration since day 1 :P. However, lacking behind in updates isn’t something an IT professional should get used to so I paid 3 hours to have this blog upgraded and moved to a new domain, since my old one is going to expire in December anyways (The Koreans hosting it decided to cheapen themselves earlier this year by violating their own mission to bring free domains. Oh well).

Not the first time I move nor upgrade; in fact maybe I should consider doing WP upgrades and moves for other people for profit: it’s so smooth it almost feels good 😛 Can you imagine it? I described the process once before already but this time the situation is a bit different: I’m not moving host, everything is already in the database so Import/Export isn’t really necessary (and it costs time + bandwidth to do so).

1. I installed WP at the new domain and copy all the plug-in and upload over

2. I crafted the wp-config.php for the new domain to make sure all changes are dealt with. This time there is no change from WP 2.7 to 2.8

3. I changed the domain in the CP and have to login to the new domain. It says a database upgrade is needed, I hit next and got a blank admin screen. Befuddled

4. Google a bit, the first hit says this is caused by plugins, I moved them out and reload, it worked! All the posts are there and the theme is kept

5. Add the plugins back one by one until I found the one causing problem: No follow in posts

6. Edit the images to point to the new domain: if I were to use Import/Export like last time, the server will have to pull all the file over (which is on the same server, a waste of bandwidth) but the image URL in the posts will be automatically updated. This time I just move them over to the new domain’s directory, so I updated the posts’ images by two simple SQL queries:

UPDATE wp_posts SET guid = replace(guid, 'http://silentwind.co.cc', 'silentwind.za.net');
UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = replace(post_content, 'http://silentwind.co.cc', 'silentwind.za.net');

Images should be displaying by now.

More disassembly

I concluded my last blog post streak with a disassembling post, it’s quite appropriate to have another one right now to celebrate my comeback 😛 This is going to be a short one: my TV Box which is used to watch analog TV with my computer’s monitor.

It used to work fine when new but when it’s about 6 months of age, its image quality gradually decrease until I’m more frustrated by watching TV with it than not at all, at which point I thrown it into storage. When I pulled it back out 2 weeks ago for a sudden need, it worked. But the next day it refused to display most of the channel :/

So I took it apart, maybe I can do something about it, it’s better than being furious at it anyway.

To the top is the outer case and the speaker (the one with a couple of wire dangling). To the bottom is the main circuit board, which is also everything. All the components are soldered to the board so nothing else could be taken apart without damaging it

Close up of the mainboard

I noticed a variable resistor above the chip in the middle (the one with the number 4 on it). I plugged everything in, turned it on and start tuning it left and right slowly to no avail. Later, I decided to turn it all the way to the left (so it would rise and possibly allow me to take something else out :P), this time it gives crystal clear picture and got all the channels. What confuses me is if from the start, it was working well because the resistor were at the top then what kind of mysterious force pushed it down later?

Chinese stuff after all, heh.

Disassembling that MP3 player

Almost everyone has one of them. They are cheap, they are convenient, they are a good way to show off. I had one from years ago but rarely use it since I hate anything that isn’t rechargeable (the ISO-14000 kind of guy). The button are a little off since I move it around a lot and must have broken something :/

So, when I have a new set of screwdrivers, it became my first victim :P.

I got off on the wrong foot: I tried to crack open the top side (the side with the screen) when actually I should do it otherwise. I found out eventually, but the casing suffered heavy scratches; and I acidentally peeled of a capacitor too 🙁

The rest is only a few screws, loose them and here are the results

Battery side

Screen side

Nice look inside Chinese manufacturing “technology”. All they’ve been doing is make a cheap (I mean really cheap) processor and bridge between the storage and the USB interface. It’s the Processor you see in the middle. AT is for Actions semiconductor. The storage chip is Samsung’s and the Radio is from Phillips.

It turned out what I’ve worried about this poor thing’s quality doesn’t matter that much. As long as the computer can recognize it, the thing will just work fine, the rest of the parts are from more qualified manufactures 😛

IMO, when stripped bare, the LCD looks a lot sexier, you can see the bright LED illuminating the fiber optics plate beneath. They look pretty good but is covered by the original casing. My guess is they make color by blending 4 LEDs: red, green, blue and white as they seem to be the strongest colors and have only one dot of light to the left side.

Blue

Red

It works fine even when disassembled (and lose a certain capacitor :”>). I guess that control screen brightness, since that’s the only setting not working.

In the end I’m too lazy to reassemble the thing. Furthermore, the buttons are off because the plastic handle inside is swollen and broken. Cheers to Chinese plastic! I can hold it back with glue but why do so when I can hit the circuits directly? So now I have the weirdest MP3 player I’ve ever seen. At least it does not electrocute me 😛 and is about 30% smaller from the original one (the case is damn big =__=).

Also, it’s not until I completely disassembled the thing I found many have disassembled their MP3s too; anh this website. They have a nice guide how to do what I’ve done to recover dead player. The site is a community run by owners of the MP3s. It turns out that they are pretty popular around the world. They have everything you’ll ever need related to these things (circut map, specs, firmware etc.)

The MP3s came under a variety of brands and forms but the internals are just the same. Some folks even made a computer out of it. There are also a resource editor and (code) disassembler so you can modify your MP3’s animation, logo and strings.

Something you may not know about your HDD

It’s inside your computer, and it doesn’t care whether you are a gaming maniac or an internet a holic. As long as you have to turn on your computer daily, one day it will make Murphy’s Law apply to you too: bad stuff will happen when it can cause the most damage.

Take a look around the internet; you’ll see you are not the only one concerned about how long your data will live. The crude fact is: your drive is not immortal. For most people who uses their computer daily, their HDD (from this point, it means magnetic platter drives)’s life will span from 3 to 5 years [4], really short if you ask me. If you don’t have enough money to replace a drive every time this period comes around, you’d better not store anything important there.

Besides obvious factors that will damage your data like a magnetic field, electric shock or physical shock, an invisible element could be temperature [5]. There are HDD fans to address this issue, those fans are quite cheap, they cost from $2 to $5. Others claim those fans will blow dust to other components. Well, if they would mitigate the heat issue that would not be a problem with me, since I take my time to physically clean my computer’s components every 3 months.

From the above source [5], there is also a ridiculous sounding argument: spinning drives will cause drive motor’s lubricant’s to spit out and condensed on the platters, making the drive crash. If that were such the case, why would they use such a lubricant in the first place? However, the spin may have something to do with it, as with every motor, any kind of movement would wear them out over time. It’s possible to stop your drive from spinning when you don’t use it through power management or some utilities. You can’t use this however, if your drive is frequently read from or written to [6].

Years ago, some guy from Quantum claimed that there’s little can you do to prolong your hard drive’s life span [1], so does Google’s 2007 research [2]

Failure rates are known to be highly correlated with drive models, manufacturers and vintages. Our results do not contradict this fact For example, Figure 2 changes significantly when e normalize failure rates per each drive model Most age-related results are impacted by drive vintages. However, in this paper, we do not show a breakdown of drives per manufacturer, model, or vintage due to the proprietary nature of these data.

You may think that high usage will make your drive fail you sooner. Actually the situation is more complex than that.

Hard drives less than three years old and used a lot are less likely to fail than similarly aged hard drives that are used infrequently, according to the report.

“One possible explanation for this behavior is the survival of the fittest theory,” said the authors, speculating that drives which failed early on in their lifetime had been removed from the overall sample leaving only the older, more robust units.” [3][7]

So, use your drive frequently when it’s still have warranty to make sure they are good, before giving them a rest :P. Some may say drives nowadays’ lifespan is shorter than before because of their high spin rates. That may be true though, but I can recall I hardly have my hard drive read or written when I was programming Pascal on a ram drive back in my 486 time :). As a matter of fact, the two hard drives I have back then still work now, a 200MB and a 800MB with spin rate somewhere below 5k. Sadly, you can’t have Visual Studio 200x to compile anything without writing to your HDD, even if you lay all your files on memory, VS would never fit csc there.

Back to the main topic, Google’s report also reveals that the temperature – failure correlation is complex too.

As you can see, the lowest failure rate is reached when the drive is around 40 degrees Celsius, be careful applying HDD fans. Though I think I will need one when my drive get older. When transferring the aftermath remains from the crashed drive to the new drive, I noticed the older drive (Samsung) is hotter than the newer (Seagate), though I’m unsure this is because of their age or being a brand matter like Google said.

Even though they say SMART failure somehow correlated to actual drive failure, you can’t depend on that not-so-smart feature to know when your drive is going to fail you. Actually, Google can’t even model how SMART errors affect failure rates

The attribute with highest failing rate is “anything” :P.

Google’s research shows that drives which have their first bad sector have 10 times probability to fail that intact drives. I may agree with this. The first time you hear a click from your drive (I mean a clear click you can hear from half a meter away, from outside the case), you can start backup your data, as your drive may fail you anytime from the next 2 weeks.

In the end, what you can do, you don’t know (because Google is mean :()! Despite being extensive and well conducted, Google’s research can’t accommodate every possible use case a normal user (e.g. you) will encounter. You can’t just stop yourself from turning the computer on (to control drive usage) those days, the net has become something you need like air, water or food! Thus, it’s best to simply do what you feel best to keep what you value most with you. There is a tip that works for everyone though: backup early, backup often and make as many backups as possible.

For a conclusion, there is a Wikibook dedicated to this topic, which I would recommend. [3]

Side story

When netbooks comes out, a new kind of HDD is introduced for the public too: solid state drive or SSD (my definition for a hard drive is something fixed in your computer and is not a removable media drive). My first opinion about them is that they won’t last long, since their life depends on the number of times data is written on them, what would happen if you download stuff, short on memory and the OS have to swap, or surf the internet with them (in which case the cache will get written and rewritten, again and again). Some of my colleagues already have their pen drives (which is basically the same technology as SSDs) failed after about 2 or 3 years usage. And lastly, the netbooks are cheap, the pen drives are cheap to, and cheap stuff rarely had high quality. 😛

However, some folks from a Mac forum may have proved that I’m wrong [8]. SSD can be written around 1 million times, plus they have 25% bonus capacity for wear leveling. They calculated that SSDs could outlive the owner if used sparsely. Well, time will tell.

References

(Don’t flame me for not having them sorted)

[1] Why good hard drives go bad

[2] Failure trends in a large disk drive population

[3] Minimizing hard disk drive failure and data loss

[4] How to Take Care of Your Hard Drive to Prevent a Crash

[5] BAD SECTOR: bn cht, nguyên nhân và phòng tránh

[6] Using spin down to prolong the life of old hard disks

[7] Hard disk test ‘surprises’ Google

[8] Replace Hard Drive with Flash Card “SSD”