Tag Archives: Amazon

Amazon Shutters Affiliate Program in Maine

Maine has just joined the ever-growing list of states ineligible for the Amazon Associates affiliate program. The retail giant will shortly be terminating affiliate activity in the state, and sending out unpaid earnings to participants, in response to governor Paul LePage’s recent state tax legislation.

There has been a growing trend of states passing legislation redefining what constitutes a “local business presence,” widening the definition in order to grab a slice of online sales. States usually require that businesses with a physical presence within their borders collect sales tax from buyers—unless that state does not have a sales tax, in the case of New Hampshire. Out-of-state businesses are not obligated to unless they have a physical presence in the state in question. What the states have been doing is defining members of affiliate programs as a physical presence, so if a Mainer puts Amazon affiliate links on his or her blog, Amazon must collect sales tax for any sales they make to Maine residents. Understandably, this is something online retailers prefer to avoid, as it complicates accounting.

Below is the message sent to members of the program:

Greetings from the Amazon Associates Program.

We’re writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account will be closed and your Amazon Services LLC Associates Program Operating Agreement will be terminated effective October 6, 2013. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Maine state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor LePage on June 5, 2013, with an effective date of October 9, 2013. As a result, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after October 6, nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Maine residents.

Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned prior to October 7, 2013, will be processed and paid in full in accordance with your regular advertising fee schedule. Based on your account closure date of October 6, 2013, any final payments will be paid by December 31, 2013.

While we oppose this unconstitutional state legislation, we strongly support the federal Marketplace Fairness Act now pending before Congress. Congressional legislation is the only way to create a simplified, constitutional framework to resolve interstate sales tax issues and it would allow us to re-open our Associates program to Maine residents.

We thank you for being part of the Amazon Associates Program, and look forward to re-opening our program when Congress passes the Marketplace Fairness Act.

The Amazon Associates Team

How Amazon Solved the Dropdown Delay Problem

If you’ve ever made a dropdown menu, you’re probably familiar with the “hover delay problem,” where a user tries to diagonally move the mouse from a submenu trigger to the menu that pops out, which causes the menu to snap closed when it loses focus. A common remedy is to add a delay, so the user has time to get their cursor from point A to point B without the menu closing or changing. Unfortunately, this makes menus seem sluggish, as there’s a small (but noticeable) delay before menus open or change.

Amazon, however, uses a more advanced trick, which cleverly solves the problem while enabling the menu to be snappy and delay-free. They track the cursor movement to determine the user’s intent. If it’s moving diagonally toward the submenu, the menu stays open. If it’s moving down the list, the submenu instantly changes. No delays making it seem sluggish, and no irritations from glitchy menus.

Ben Kamens, lead developer at Khan Academy, described this behavior in an interesting blog post and released a jQuery plugin that replicates it.

Amazon Menu Triangle

As it turns out, Apple has been using the same principle for their OS’s menus for a long time. At least since the early 1990s, perhaps earlier, though I’m not familiar enough with Apple’s history to pinpoint exactly when. It’s funny how often the wheel is reinvented…

Breaking down Amazon’s mega dropdown [Ben Kamens]

Archive Data for One Cent per Month with Amazon Glacier

Amazon recently launched their latest Web Services Product, which aims to help you store data for the long term. Amazon Glacier costs one cent per gigabyte per month to store data, with some limitations on the retrieval. It costs $0.12/GB to retrieve data if you need to access more than five percent of what you stored. It also will take a few hours to retrieve the data.

Given the very low price and the long retrieval delays, it is a logical assumption that Amazon is using magnetic tapes for the storage.

Amazon suggests that the service would be used for archiving and preserving records, media, scientific data, or anything that requires long-term storage. It would work well for off-site backups in general, even for your personal computer, since storage is absurdly cheap and you don’t need to retrieve backups too often.

How Much Does Amazon CloudFront Cost for a Small Blog?

You may have heard about how people speed up their websites by offloading images, CSS and JavaScript from their server to a Content Delivery Network like Amazon CloudFront. The CDN mirrors the files in separate datacenters and serves them up from the one closest to a given user, which makes a noticeable difference to load times. If you use a plugin like W3 Total Cache, you can automatically link your media folders to a CDN and rewrite the the file URLs on the fly, even minifying the CSS and JavaScript.

Amazon CloudFront is one of the cheaper CDNs, but many people worry about it’s seemingly complicated pricing scheme. Since you pay for what you use, your monthly bill is calculated based on how many gigabytes of data you transfer and how many HTTP requests are made.

You pay $0.0075 for every 10,000 HTTP requests, and $0.12 per gigabyte for North American and European visitors. The cost-per gigabyte is slightly higher for other regions, but it doesn’t go over $0.25/GB.

So how much do you end up paying for a blog with around 40,000 page views per month? $0.64.

I’ve been running CloudFront for a little while now, and I ended up paying about sixty-four cents from the 3.004GB of transfer incurred over the month of January. It’s definitely affordable, and should help take some load off your server, besides decreasing load times.

Host Static Websites With Amazon S3

Amazon S3, the inexpensive storage service, now can be used to host entire static websites. Though the service will accept any kind of file, which makes it great for keeping large or frequently-accessed data (podcasts, software downloads, JavaScript widgets, etc.) off your server, until recently it didn’t support index files. You could point a domain to an S3 bucket and upload HTML files, but visitors would get an automatically-generated listing of files instead of your index.html content. That has now changed. Amazon now allows you to setup custom root and error documents.

To get started, open the Amazon S3 Management Console, and follow these simple steps:

1) Right-click on your Amazon S3 bucket and open the Properties pane
2) Configure your root and error documents in the Website tab
3) Click Save

It seems like a good way to throw up a quick traffic-resistant website, though I imagine it could get expensive pretty quickly if it were, say, submitted to Reddit.

Google Storage for Developers: An Attempt to Compete With S3?

I just happened upon an interesting new Labs service from Google: Google Storage for Developers. It’s very much like Amazon S3 in concept, but from Google. It’s a cheap, pay-as-you-go file storage service that could be used for anything from backing up data to hosting podcasts to serving images.

Google Storage for Developers will cost $0.17 per gigabyte per month for storage, plus transfer fees. It seems slightly more expensive for the month-to-month fee, but the bandwidth charges might be cheaper. For the duration of the preview Google is offering “100 gigabytes of storage and 300 gigabytes of bandwidth per month” at no cost.

It’s also worth noting that Google offers App Engine, a cost-efficient cloud hosting solution for Python/Rails/Java applications. Amazon has a similar service as part of their impressive AWS suite. With either provider, Google or Amazon, you could cheaply run a large web application more efficiently than if you were having to manually deploy physical servers. Reddit awhile ago switched from running their own servers to using AWS and has had nothing but good things to say about it.

It’s nice to see some more competition in this area. Hopefully it will lead to lower prices. :)

Arq: Back Up Your Mac to Amazon S3

I use some shell scripts to back up my web server to Amazon S3. It’s very cheap and off-site, two things that make for a good backup strategy. But what about personal computers? Most people, myself included, simply back up to external hard disk. Off-site backups stored “in the cloud” on remote servers would be a much preferable option. (But most people balk at paying $5-$20 per month for a service like Dropbox, JungleDisk, SpiderOak or Carbonite.)

Arq, by Haystack Software, takes a slightly different approach. It’s designed for those of us who already have Amazon S3 accounts. Arq lets you set a monthly budget, say $5 (which gets you 50GB or storage). The application then keeps the folders you choose mirrored with Amazon S3. It operates on the same hourly schedule as Time Machine, keeping multiple versions of the files. It periodically deletes old versions of the files to stay within the storage space equivalent to the monthly budget you set. It even encrypts your files with a passkey of your choosing.

If you’re selective about the data you back up, the pricing should be fairly reasonable. It seems like a good way to back up data. You could use it in tandem with Dropbox; Arq+S3 for backing up your critical data, Dropbox for sharing and collaborating.

Further Reading

Amazon S3: A Cheap Podcast Host?

Podcasts are fun to create, but they can be expensive to host. Typically they’re larger than 10 megabytes, and when you have a thousand plus people downloading each of your weekly episodes, your bandwidth bill can get pretty large. (They can also eat up a lot of your server’s disk space.)

Many podcasters, rather than pay for ever-increasing amounts of bandwidth, use podcast syndication services like Libsyn to host their shows. Libsyn charges $12/month for unmetered bandwidth, and a monthly upload quota of 250MB. (There are a few other pricing tiers they offer, but the “libsyn250″ is probably the one most weekly hour-length podcasts will require.)

There’s another option, though.

Amazon S3 is a neat service that allows you to “pay as you go,” and host your files on Amazon’s speedy cloud servers. They charge $0.15 per gigabyte in bandwidth, as well as a monthly $0.15/GB storage fee.

I’ve been using Amazon S3 for off-site storage of my server backups for awhile, and it recently occurred to me that would be a great place to host podcast files.

If your subscribers were to download 20GB worth of podcast files in a month, for example, you would pay a mere $3. (You would technically have to pay a little more for the storage of the files, but it probably wouldn’t even be another dollar.)

If you coupled it with Amazon’s CloudFront service, a CDN that pulls from your S3 account, you could help speed up your subscribers’ downloads. (A CDN, in case you were wondering, is a service that mirrors your files across servers in different geographic locations, to ensure that your users are downloading from a nearby server.) It costs the same $0.15/per gigabyte, minus the silly “thousandth of a cent” HTTP request charges.

I wonder how many podcasters are using Amazon Web Services. It seems like a fairly affordable, and certainly reliable, option.

U.S. Patent Office Awards Amazon 1-Click Patent

In 1997, Amazon filed for the infamous “1-Click Patent,” a “Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network” using a single click.

Now, many companies other than Amazon use that exact same paradigm, some of them may have even been using it before Amazon. ITunes, for instance, stores your credit information so you can instantly buy songs with a single click, and a confirmation dialog, rather than wasting your time with a virtual “shopping cart.”

The U.S. Patent Office, in 2006, started an inquiry into the questionable nature of the filing. Unfortunately, that has ended. The patent has been confirmed, and is set to expire in 2017.

…the 1-Click patent, after Amazon’s amendments, is “a slightly narrower version but essentially the same version.” He added: “This case may be a public relations boon for supporters of patent reform that have been calling for an overhaul of the reexamination system.”

What does this mean for online business? The one-click model is fairly commonplace in online commerce, particularly with services selling entertainment media.

Amazon.com’s 1-Click patent confirmed following re-exam [TechFlash]

Automatic Amazon S3 Backups on Ubuntu/Debian

If you manage your own web server, as you do with a VPS, one thing you need to look into is a backup strategy. It wouldn’t be pleasant for your files to vanish into the ether in the event of some sort of catastrophic server meltdown, would it? Optimally you want to, on a daily basis, offload a copy of everything important to a separate geographical location. One excellent way to do that is to follow Pro Blog Design’s new tutorial on how to automatically back up your files and databases to Amazon S3.

S3, or Simple Storage Service, is Amazon’s cheap cloud data storage system. Michael Martin, the author of the tutorial, says that his bill from last month was $2.60. ($0.15 per month per GB for stored, $0.15 per GB transferred.) Using a backup script on your server, you can automatically archive and encrypt your files and MySQL dumps, then send them off to Amazon’s servers for safekeeping.

I should start by saying that while s3 is not a free service, it’s incredibly inexpensive! My bill for the last month was $2.60, and that was with backing up a lot more than just this site! It’s the cheapest peace-of-mind ever.

Automatic Amazon S3 Backups on Ubuntu/Debian [Pro Blog Design]