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So you want to build a web site

I have a broad base of friends; from those who could explain how the universe was formed (in minute detail) to those that could build you a boat to those that have trouble starting a car… and many of them (from many different backgrounds) have asked me for help or guidance building a web site.

First, let me be clear — I’m not a graphics designer; and I’m much more autistic than artistic… but I understand how the web works (from the nuts and bolts — so to speak; on up)… and that gives me a unique perspective on how to explain to people about building a web site.

One of the first things I tell them is start small; you can grow later, but you need to get a handle on the basics and understand the dos and don’ts inside out.

My generally recommendation is something along the lines of a three page web site — and opening page, an about page, and a contact page… sure lots of sites need more, but almost all need at least those — so starting there will always get you closer to where you want to go.

I also recommend to most people that they start with a pencil and paper, and draw out roughly how they want their site to look — and then look for other sites that have the look that they’re interested in.

After that, they simply need to learn the basics of how you describe your site to a browser — HTML; and probably some JavaScript.

JavaScript???  That’s for programmers!!!

Well yes and no; there’s quite a bit a person can do with JavaScript that just understands the very basics of programming, much of the work are done by people who know JavaScript inside out, and have published a foundation and widgets… so it comes down to almost cut-and-paste (sure you need to understand a little; but if you can learn HTML, you can learn JavaScript).

Along with building a web site you really need to learn a little about search engines, how they work, and what they expect to find when they visit a site… because if a search engine isn’t kind to you, then people just won’t find your site — and there’s a limit to how many people you’re going to point out your site to…

You need to learn more about HTML, particularly META TAGS, you also need to learn about some of the conventions of the web; a file called robots.txt that will tell crawlers and spiders what to do, and what’s refereed to as a site map (that makes it easier for a search engine to do it’s job — thus it’s more likely to index your site).

But just having a site map isn’t enough,you’ve got to make it easy for the search engine to digest all the information on your site; which means you need to learn to avoid Flash, images without ALT TAGS, pages that use AJAX XHR methods to load content on demand (search engines don’t run the JavaScript on a page — so they never see delay loaded content); pages that have JSON data sets used to populate page elements (again search engines don’t run the JavaScript on a page), pages that are broken, and pages that are huge (search engines have limits to how much content they’ll crawl on a single page).

I know, it seems like a bottomless pit of things to learn and keep in mind as you do it — and it’s certainly not made any easier by the fact that like most “professions”, web developers like to exclude as many people as they can by coming up with totally nonsensical jargon to hide how trivial most of this is.

Well, it is trivial (for the most part).

But my advice is, if you want to build a web site — start with the basics, and get the mechanics dead on before you go off the deep end with a “look” that defines your site.

Form is easier to add to function than vice-versa.

Over the next few months I’ll write a few posts on some of the specifics that make building a functional web page easier — and I’ll also share some advice on JavaScript frameworks.

Originally posted 2010-11-16 02:00:41.

Promise NS4300N NAS (Update)

Looks like Promise has “fixed” the issue with Seagate 1.5TB drives in the NS4300N NAS…

They’ve replaced Compatibility List NS4300N_SR5_Compatibility_List_v1.0-20081031.pdf with NS4300N_SR5_Compatibility_List_v1.0-20081126.pdf on their support web site — the never revisions of the V1.0 Compatibility List omits the Seagate 1.5TB drive (interesting that they choose to call it V1.0 rather than V1.1 and remove the previous V1.0 list from their web page)… but the firmware release notes still contains the statement that they’ve added support for 1.5TB drives (the only 1.5TB drive I know of is the Seagate).

Promise’s actions are a little suspect… maybe it’s time for a trip over to Alameda’s Small Claims Court…  I’ve retained copies of both versions of the compatibility list as well as the firmware release notes.

And for the record, I have still yet to receive any update to my online support inquiry even though I’ve updated it a number of times with “additional” comments and information; and I’ve called Promise as well.

Originally posted 2008-12-04 22:13:22.

Tobacco v Alcohol

Every year tobacco kills more Americans than did World War II — more than AIDS, cocaine, heroin, alcohol, vehicular accidents, homicide and suicide combined.
· George Will; June 18th, 2009 Washington Post op-ed


Brink’s Pill Heist

On the 17th of March in what could well become the basis of the next Hollywood crime caper movie, $75 million worth of pharmaceuticals was stolen from a warehouse in Enfield, MA from Eli Lilly & Co.

The thieves disabled the alarm system, scaled an exterior brick wall, cut a hold in the roof, rappelled inside, loaded pallets of merchandise onto an awaiting vehicle, and left with a semi-truck full of stolen goods.

Prozac, Cymbalta, Zyprexa according to Eli Lilly no narcotics or painkillers were stored in this ware house.

Why worry about drugs from abroad when it seems the drug trade is very much alive right in our own back yard.

Originally posted 2010-03-19 02:00:13.

Windows 7 – Which edition is right for you?

So you want to upgrade to Microsoft® Windows 7, but you’re not sure which version is the right choice…

Essentially there are only three choices for consumers in the US this time: Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate… and certainly you can go through the matrix and figure out what’s best, but here’s my advice.

If your computer won’t be used in a business setting where it’s necessary that you join a domain (Active Directory Service) then you may not need anything more than Home Premium.  If you have ADS on your home network, consider therapy.

If your computer is not capable of hardware virtualization (you can use the detection tool below) then you won’t be able to use the Virtual XP mode of Professional or Ultimate.

If your motherboard doesn’t have the TPM (Trusted Platform Module) you won’t be able to use the enhanced security of Professional or Ultimate.

The only other useful feature in Professional/Ultimate that’s not in Home Premium is the ability to be an RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) server that would allow remote access from another machine.  All versions support remote assistance requests.

There’s absolutely no reason to buy a higher end version than you can use; it will not run any faster or better.  The version you install will be locked to the hardware you install it on, and it’s hard to move it to another computer (it might be impossible).

Don’t waste your money by stroking your ego — buy the version that fits your hardware and your needs best; and for most people that’s going to be Home Premium.

Microsoft® Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool

Originally posted 2009-10-25 01:00:38.

The Peter Principle

So Wednesday I read an article that the brigade, battalion, and company commanders in 13 July 2008 attack on Wanat, Afghanistan had been reprimanded following a re-investigation of the matter by Marine Lt Gen Richard Natonski.

Initially the three were not subjected to any disciplinary action; but an independent investigation by Lt Gen Richard Natonski was order after numerous complaints.

After the reprimand for the three officers who were said to have made critical operational mistakes, the soldiers refuted the charges and the US Central Command reversed the decision and cleared the three of any wrong doing.

Seems strange, until you realize that the battalion command, then a lieutenant colonel had been promoted to a full colonel after the incident — apparently not only did he not do anything wrong, but he must have done something right.

Dr Laurence J Peter and Raymond hull could have used this as a case in point to support The Peter Principle.

No Punishment For Officers In Deadly Afghan Battle on NPR

Originally posted 2010-06-26 02:00:31.

A New Hope

There have been numerous firsts in the course of human events; but my belief is that one singular event set in motion a new era for human kind.

One July 20, 1969 at 4:17  pm EDT Neil A Armstrong took one small step for man as he stepped off the ladder of the Lunar Module Eagle onto the surface of the Moon and subsequently returned to Earth with “Buzz” Aldrin and the Columbia Command Module pilot Michael Collins.

While many consider this the single greatest technological achievement of all time; I would go further to say that when humans left our tiny frail planet, stepped foot on another celestial body, and safely returned it was far more than a technological achievement, it was the event the redefined man’s destiny.

Thirty-three years ago human kind boldly went into the future.

Originally posted 2010-07-04 02:00:22.

Google TV — Post Notes

Just a follow up to my Google TV post… the Logitech Revue Google TV box’s price has been slashed to $99, and it will be updated to run Honeycomb and support a host of new apps.

While the current version isn’t compelling, the new price just might be — at least when Honeycomb actually ships on the Revue and you can do something useful (like run Google Music perhaps).


Google TV

Originally posted 2011-08-12 02:00:00.

Google +

So I’ve had a Google+ account for awhile, and now I guess everyone else in the world (who has a GMail account — Google hosted accounts are excluded for the time being) can have a Google+ account now.

My questions is…

What do I do with it?

I mean why would I use it verses Facebook or Twitter (or any one of the other useless sites I’ve avoided like the plague)?

Originally posted 2011-09-20 01:00:26.

Credit or Debit

When you use your check card bearing a VISA or Master Card logo at a merchant to pay for a transaction you’re given a choice of how the point of sale transaction will be settled — and that’s generally presented to you as “credit” or “debit”.

Should you care which?


Most merchants would prefer that you choose to settle the point of sale transaction as a debit; and the reason is very simple — money.  Most any merchant will make more from a debit card transaction than a credit transaction (but remember, they’ve built in the credit card charges to their pricing – so you’re not benefiting in the least).  Plus, the funds will be removed from your account almost instantly.  Also, when you choose to do a point of sale transaction as debit, you’ll have to enter your PIN (just like when you use an ATM).  While you might think having to use your PIN is far more secure, in point of fact you’re exposing sensitive information in a public setting — numerous times criminals have compromised merchant networks and obtained both customer debit card account numbers and their PINs.  Keep in mind, even if you can show that your number was used fraudulently, it will take a great deal of effort and time to get your money back — and that might just be the beginning of the nightmare.


When you decide that your transaction will be settled through the VISA or Master Card network (just like a credit card would be) by hitting the “credit” button you will get all the protection that would be afforded to you had you used a credit card.  Federal law protects credit card users; but both VISA and Master Card go beyond the scope of law with their zero liability programs; and if somehow your account is compromised having funds conditionally credited back to you is a simple phone call (and perhaps notarized affidavit) away.  Sure, it might cost the merchant more money for the transaction; but it doesn’t cost you more.  Plus, while the funds to cover the transaction might be placed on hold, they will remain in your account (earning interest perhaps) for several days.  Additionally, if your financial institution has a rewards programs, generally you only earn points in it with credit transactions (that’s because your financial institution makes more money when you choose a credit transaction as well).  Finally, since the transaction settles through the VISA or Master Card network; the fraud prevention systems of VISA or Master Card, in addition to any your financial institution come into play.

Why on Earth would anyone choose to do debit card transaction (using a PIN) when a credit transaction is much, much safer for the individual, and simpler (though you can argue if you have to enter your ZIP code you’ve typed one more digit than your PIN)???

Bottom line — choose wisely; choose credit!

VISA Master Card

NOTE: For debit cards issued by non-US financial institutions; or cards not bearing the VISA or Master Card logos, please contact your issuing financial institution or consult governing laws in your jurisdiction.

Originally posted 2010-07-30 02:00:40.