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What is pMachine Hosting?
PMachine is free, basic blogging software which was the predecessor to the ExpressionEngine content management platform. New releases are no longer being developed, but pMachine is still offered by a number of web hosts as a free installation.
Launched in 2002, the pMachine blogging application became a springboard for other software development by EllisLab. Free and Pro versions of pMachine were available. Eventually, the Pro version became available as a free download. As of April 2015, a download site for pMachine was not readily located. New releases are no longer being developed, but pMachine is still offered by a number of web hosts as a free installation.
If you decide to install pMachine on your site, either by downloading and installing it yourself, or through an automated setup through your host, be aware that, because this product is no longer actively developed, you will receive little to no support and may be opening yourself up to security vulnerabilities.
From Blogging to Content Management
In place of pMachine, EllisLab currently offers a product called ExpressionEngine. It’s a content management platform, which means it can be used to create and maintain feature-rich websites, manage multimedia elements, discussion boards, blogs, wiki, email and more. You may import pMachine site data into ExpressionEngine. Blog entries, comments, trackbacks, member accounts, and mailing list email addresses may all be imported via the control panel in ExpressionEngine. Template data will not migrate. If you have multiple mailing lists from pMachine Pro, they’ll be consolidated into one mailing list when imported.
ExpressionEngine has a robust feature set, plus many third-party add-ons for increased functionality. Features include, but are not limited to: spam deterrents, security tools, database management, broad publishing tools, and a template engine. ExpressionEngine is built on the open-source framework CodeIgniter. EllisLab encourages add-on development in the user community.
EllisLab briefly developed another content management service, MojoMotor. This lightweight alternative to ExpressionEngine was designed to create easy-to-edit, brochure-like sites, using primarily static pages. This project has since been discontinued.
ExpressionEngine requires PHP hypertext preprocessor (PHP) 5.3.10, compiled with the GD or GD2 library, and MySQL version 5.0.3 or newer. You’ll need 32 MB memory allocated to PHP, 10 MB of available disk space, and 2 MB of database space. Check with your hosting provider to ensure your plan meets the requirements before installation. If you’re not certain, there’s a server compatibility wizard available on their support site that will test your server for you. Some host plans include the ExpressionEngine software and technical support for its installation and use.
To utilize the ExpressionEngine control panel, your web browser will need to meet their minimum requirements as well. Check your browser and make sure it’s version is at least Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 13, Safari 5.1, Chrome 19, or Opera 11.64. If not, you should upgrade prior to installing ExpressionEngine.
When it comes to free blogging solutions, most of the best alternatives are also content management systems (CMS), which means they provide blogging solutions along with a whole list of other features, including website creation. These are also going to be the most likely alternatives to the ExpressionEngine content management platform.
The most popular CMS by far is WordPress. While WordPress has grown into a full-functioned content management system, at its core it is still a free, powerful blogging tool. You can setup a WordPress site for free on their website, but you won’t be able to use your own domain. To do that, you either have to pay for a hosted plan through WordPress, or host it on your own server. This latter option will also allow you much more flexibility in terms of customization and add-ons, and most web hosts offer WordPress as a free installation.
Another free solution, Joomla, is a highly-customizable CMS with more than enough templates and add-ons to suit anyone’s needs. Installing Joomla requires a little more technical knowledge than WordPress, but if you want to go that route, you won’t be alone. There are plenty of support documents available and a strong user community happy to help.
If you’re solely interested in building a simple blog, or you already have a website and want to add a blog to it, BlogEngint.NET offers a full-featured, light-weight ASP.NET blog. The interface is simpler and more intuitive than WordPress. There is a bit more setup involved, but they provide step-by-step instructions on their website.
While pMachine is a free blogging solution, ExpressionEngine is a much more robust tool and comes at a price, at least to take advantage of its best features. At the time of this article, ExpressionEngine was available for $299. The free version, ExpressionEngine Core can also be downloaded, but it is missing a number of features and is not available for commercial sites.
Additional support is also available for a range of monthly prices, depending on your needs.
Pros and Cons - pMachine
While not one of the most common blogging platforms used today, pMachine does offer some distinct advantages over other blogging software, such as:
- pMachine uses minimal system resources, which can be particularly useful if you’re on a budget hosting plan or self-hosting on a small server
- It’s a stripped-down blogging platform, so you won’t have to deal with any unnecessary bloat or confusing extra features. This not only simplifies setup and administration, but makes general maintenance less of a hassle
On the other hand, there are always downsides to dealing with older software:
- Without regular updates, older software can put your server, as well as your visitor’s information, at risk
- Particularly with software as old as this, you can’t expect to make the most of all Web 2.0 has to offer. This is very basic both in terms of the interface and interactive features
Pros and Cons – ExpressionEngine
ExpressionEngine provides a number of advantages over other CMS applications, such as:
- Easier customization. You can add tags anywhere on your site where you want a post to appear, and modify the sites overall appearance using a what-you-see-is-what-you-get website editor
- ExpressionEngine categorizes content into a series of channels, which work almost like separate blogs, creating a custom experience for users based on the path they’ve chosen to view the content, the channels they have selected, or the channels you select as visible to them
There are some drawbacks, however, that might make another CMS more appealing:
- Price. There are a number of free CMS solutions available, so if you don’t need the additional features, the cost may be prohibitive
- While ExpressionEngine is easier to customize, you won’t find nearly as many pre-built templates as you would for a more widely used CMS, such as WordPress
What type of support is available for pMachine and ExpressionEngine?
Since EllisLab discontinued development of pMachine, there is no support available through their site. For ExpressionEngine, they provide three levels of paid support depending on your needs, as well as community support.
What type of Spam deterrents does ExpressionEngine provide?
ExpressionEngine includes a number of tools to prevent comment and trackback spam on your website and posts, including a blacklist feature, Captcha to ensure a human is creating the comment, secure form mode, duplicate data denial, site membership, and more.
What type of tools are available for managing mailing lists?
ExpressionEngine provides a variety of tools to manage mailing lists and send emails, including multi-protocol support, flexible email options, a mailing list manager, mail caching, and batch processing.
Can I use ExpressionEngine to build a community site?
Yes. ExpressionEngine provides several community-building features, including a multi-user system, member group capabilities, custom member fields, member activation options, profile management tools, subscription management tools, and member communication tools.
Can I use add-ons or plugins?
Yes, ExpressionEngine includes a number of add-ons and over 100 plugins, which expand the capability of your site with features such as discussion forums, wikis, mailing lists, email, statistics, and more.