In May of 2007, Zach Lynn and I launched UltimateComputers.net. We had posted our very first computer-build video on youtube just about a year earlier, and it was more popular than we thought it would be. After making two more videos, my youtube message inbox began to fill up with requests for more videos, and requests for help with picking out parts to build a computer. Zach and I agreed that this would be the perfect opportunity for us to put our newly found interest in web design into action. UltimateComputers.net was born…
We had been teaching ourselves some html and css for a few months at this point, but PHP and MySQL (the scripting languages of choice for dynamic, content-driven sites), were totally new to us. We jumped in anyways, and the first version of ultimatecomputers.net was ugly as hell. But man did we learn a lot… we chose to implement phpBB as our forum software. I had played around with phpBB a bit before – earlier that year I launched a private forum for my friends and I – but this didn’t really require me to know php, it just got me acquainted with it.
We were on our way: learning more and more php as we went, integrating the forum into our site design (no easy task), and adding more user driven services to the site. In January of 2008 we redesigned the site completely to the styling you see today (though the content has obviously changed since then). After completing our modifications to the forum template, Zach made this excellent post:
When I started to implement this forum into our new design, I had to start from scratch. We did a very bad job with the other forum, so now its finally up to par with the new website. Looking back, we made so many mistakes in html and css that I’m surprised the forum even worked.
To drive traffic to the site, we started developing more and more computer videos. We soon branched out from build-videos to include tutorials, reviews, and more. In fact, if it weren’t for ultimatecomputers.net, I might not be making youtube videos today, a huge passion of mine! We added all these videos to the site, and started to place advertisements – we finally started to make some money (thought it was only about $0.50 per month at the beginning)!
All the while, the forum continued to see upgrades, new features, and a live chat powered by IRC. Eventually, we even had UltimateComputers.net Merchandise, annual member awards, and a Folding-at-Home Team. I kept a log of all the updates I made to the website here. Some of my posts are … humorous.
In the summer of 2008, with only a few months before Zach and I left for college, we decided to construct the UC User Submission Portal. This system, built from scratch, and fully integrated into the forum, would allow users to create project, tutorial, and review entries of their own on the site. After a year of work, thousands of lines of code, lots of time spent learning about SQL injection attacks, and at least a dozen all nighters, we launched the project portion of this portal. It allowed users to create photo galleries, include videos, displays statistics, and comment on/rate each others projects. Our plan was to expand this platform to tutorials and reviews over the next few months, but sadly, sophomore year was too time consuming to allow for this. Eventually, we agreed to stop working on the two new sections and to dedicate our time to other endeavors instead. It was around this time that my participation in the forum dropped off, and I began to rely more and more on our fantastic moderating team: Assassin48, Carbonite, castroman2007, KBcobra, and Ub3rslay3r.
The forum continued to chug along despite my reduced presence. I checked in every so often to apply updates, murder spam bots, and make a post. Luckily, by this point, the forum community had grown to several thousand users, and there were enough “experts” to ensure that everybody got the help they needed.
In the summer of 2009, I migrated the entire site from shared hosting to a VPS (Virtual Private Server). This was necessitated by a rapidly increasing database size and increased bandwidth requirements. This new server was my first experience with linux server administration, and man was it a roller coaster ride. I spent about 2 months preparing the server, getting all our packages setup, writing automatic backup and synchronization bash scripts, and testing our website in the new environment. When I finally flipped the switch, my hard work paid off with ZERO downtime during the transfer. Since migrating to that server, I’ve taught myself a lot about linux security and running a server. There were a few crashes and hacking attempts, but I managed to maintain a 99% uptime (and yes, that is an actual, logged statistic). Not too bad for my first time managing a server with root access!
For the last year, the quality of the community on ultimatecomputers.net has been slowly degrading, with more and more “tell me how to do this” topics, and fewer intelligent discussions about computers and technology. Concurrently, human spammers became a huge problem. Apparently, people in some parts of the world get paid a few cents an hour to bypass anti-spam measures and make bogus forum posts. These are extremely difficult to stop automatically, and as a result, had grown to a huge number on our forums. These spammers, in conjunction with my absence, the decreasing quality of content, and the high hosting cots associated with dedicated servers were the reason why I shut down the site to new registrations and posts on January 17th, 2011.
Upon informing the community of this shut-down, some of the more loyal members were dismayed, but understanding – agreeing that ultimatecomputers.net had seen its hey-day. Following are some comments from users of the site:
I’m sorry to hear this. Although I’ve only been a member of the site a short while I’ve been following your work for quite some time now. Your explanations and assistance have helped me get my Comptia A+ cert and a few others like it. Thank you Jeremy and thanks to all the people that made his work possible. ~Aylos_Jenkins
A big shame this site must end, but its understandable *cry*. It’s been a good time here and I’m really thankful for all the help I’ve gotten here. If it ever gets “reborn” please email us =D but yeah, UC is one of my 4 pinned tabs on chrome, gunna be sad to see it go. ~thelethalmoo
Good luck with the future everyone, although you all don’t know me too well I still loved this site. Thanks Jeremy and Zach. And goodbye to Ultimate Computers. ~Madt01
Alas a sad day. I’ve used this site a lot just to keep in touch with computer trends. And to troubleshoot many of my machines issues. Thanks sciguy [Jeremy] and legolas [Zach] for keeping it running as long as you guys did. My hats off to you. ~night455
I had a great stay here. I learned many things about computers, and all I know is from here. It is sad to see this site go, but it is understandable. Also, a big thanks to KBcobra, for providing a lot of help with my builds and other threads. This has been a great experience for me as well, meeting a lot of helpful people here. I hope to see at least some of you on other websites. But if not, I was glad to gain the knowledge that I have from you guys. ~Killamaker11
And that is the tale of ultimatecomputers.net. I’ve locked the site to new registrations and posts, but I intend to keep it online as an archive of computer information. I’ve migrated it off of the VPS (Virtual Private Server) and on to my other, less expensive, hosting server. Perhaps I’ll be able to make it live again in the future, but it would be unfair to the community if I did that without having the necessary time to dedicate to maintaining and improving the site. So for now, goodbye – it’s been one hell of a ride.