Entries Tagged as 'Internet'

All the news fit to print…

Hmm… maybe that should be all the bs that can be gotten away with!

When you read news articles or when people relay to you “facts” be sure and do your homework; read accounts of the same events on multiple un-related sources.  In fact it’s often good to get a perspective from an international source.

Take a look at any of the facts, figures, and claims — try and verify those against an authoritative source.

If the information reported is important to you; check to see if any of the “facts” it’s based on, or claims it makes are updated over time.

Most journalists report the news impartially from their perspective; but it is from their perspective.  Many journalists and news organization like to sensationalize the news or majorly spin it to suit their agenda.

Question everything.

Originally posted 2009-02-12 01:00:46.

Dynamic Sitemap

About two years ago I wrote a program that created a sitemap from a local copy of my web pages (I also wrote an automation wrapper so that I could do all my web sites along with other mundane tasks reliably).

When I installed WordPress over a year ago I really liked the fact that the sitemap plug in was capable of dynamically creating a sitemap when a request was made; and I set it as a goal to implement that on my web site.

Well, yesterday that goal was realized.

I wrote a simple PHP script that takes some meta information and creates a sitemap, either uncompressed or compressed based on what is requested.  I used a rewrite rule in my .htaccess file to allow search engines to continue to request the familiar sitemap.xml and/or sitemap.xml.gz file.

Now I don’t have to worry about creating and deploying a sitemap file when I change a file; I only have to make sure that the meta information is updated when I add or remove pages.  Plus, I incorporated the concept of dynamic pages, so that the sitemap can accurately report fresh content.

At the moment I haven’t decided if I’m going to “publish” this code or not.  It’s likely I will once I clean it up and actually test it more completely.  Like I said, it isn’t rocket science – it just takes a little knowledge of what a sitemap is, and you can get everything you need from sitemaps.org; a little ability in PHP, and a basic understanding of how to write a re-write rule for Apache.

Originally posted 2010-02-23 01:00:50.

AT&T U-Verse

I signed up for AT&T U-Verse service about two months ago — I’ve already made a post on that, but I decide to go ahead and do a series of posts on it.

This post will be an over view of what it is; then I’ll do a post on each of the services that are part of it.

The first thing to say about AT&T U-Verse is that it is offered by a company that I think very little of; a company that does not engender trust (in fact I’m suspicious of them at every turn — they seem to make mistake after mistake after mistake — and all their mistakes benefit them).  The sad thing is you might not have any substantially better company in your area to receive similar services from — so it’s not necessarily choosing the best, but often choosing the one that gives you that most without costing you the most.

U-Verse in short is AT&T’s name for an “advance” set of services — voice, television, and internet.

AT&T’s system generally provides these services to the home over copper (fibre is required in fairly close proximity as well).  The technology is called FTTN (fibre-to-the-node) and while they do have some FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) it’s only found in extremely dense areas.

With FTTN a VRAD (video-ready-access-device) is present between the Central Office and the end node consumer; in FTTP it isn’t.  VRADs are generally fairly large pieces of equipment similar to a cable company’s “head-end” (used for digital cable deployment) and much larger than a TELCO’s mini-DSLAMs (used for DSL deployment via copper from fibre from the Central Office DSLAM).

The services offered via U-Verse are: voice (“land line” telephone), television (“cable” tv as well as video on demand), and internet (“high speed” broadband).

When the service is installed it’s likely the installers will work in a team; the outside cable will be run by one person (generally the entry copper from the pole will be replaced) and new inside wiring is run.

It’s important to note that all services are digital.

Voice is provided by voice over IP (VoIP) technology; television is provided through ip video (including live and video on demand [VOD]); and of course the internet service is the core of everything (though an optional part).

The center of the system in the home is a residential gateway which handles all three of the services (along with a battery backup unit — mainly to insure that emergency services work in power outages).

Many people ask the question if they can use their own residential equipment rather than what AT&T provides.  The answer simply is NO.  Currently you must use the AT&T equipment — you may use your equipment in addition to the AT&T residential gateway, or remove your equipment and use exclusively the AT&T provided equipment.

I’ll cover the details of each service with respect to the gateway in the following posts — but your installer will work with you to provide a reasonable installation that should provide you with voice, television, and internet services much as you currently have.

The gateway itself has one WAN side connection, two telephone jacks  (it’s not clear to me whether it’s cable of three lines or four lines, but currently you can only subscribe for two lines of service), four 100-Base-T Ethernet (LAN) connections, one wireless (802.11-N) radio, one USB connection (for a PC), one “F” connector for video, and one Ethernet “broadband” connection (I’m not sure what this is for, it’s got a piece of transparent tape over it on my unit).

Initially the set-top boxes and DVR units must be cabled directly to the unit to insure proper discover; after they are configured you can use a switch if you want more ports; or you can connect your router to the gateway if you like (you will need to reconfigure the gateway if you do this to allow your gateway to work as before).

If everything goes well in the installation, once the wiring is in place the gateway, set-top boxes, and DVR units will register and come online within a few minutes — however, AT&T seems to have quite a few units that are defective, so don’t be surprised if there are some problems.

I had ordered one DVR and two set-top boxes (mainly because I wanted the maximum installation I could get for free).  One of the set-top boxes was DOA (dead-on-arrival), one of the set-top boxes worked (but I decided I didn’t really want to keep it so the install took it back), and the DVR unit wasn’t completely dead, but was defective.  Fortunately the installer had another unit he could replace it with — but since the unit had worked well enough to register itself it took quite sometime for the installer to find someone at AT&T support who was able to clear out the previous registration so my “new” DVR could register.

We also had some issues with the voice service; but by the time the DVR issues were resolved a reboot of the gateway seemed to download the proper service configuration and both inbound and outbound calling worked.

I will note that my install was originally scheduled for a Saturday (it was the first day I could select); and AT&T never informed me that they had moved my installation date to the following Monday.  I found out when I called them 15-minutes before the close of the installation window.  I was more than a little pissed since I had changed my plans Saturday to accommodate them, and now I had to change my plans for Monday as well!

Over all I give my installer fairly high marks for doing a good job (though he still owes me a jack — AT&T doesn’t give there installers a very good supply of equipment or parts); but like almost every AT&T system, it’s brittle and almost appears designed to fail.

The one short coming of my install is that he really didn’t know a great deal about configuring the gateway for a “complex” network; but since that isn’t something AT&T technically supports I can’t fault him on that, and I certainly knew enough to figure out what needed to be changed (the 2Wire device they use could be considered a “pro-sumer” grade device, so it capable of meeting most needs, but don’t expect it to have highly technical descriptions of the various settings).

I will say, that after the initial installation the system appeared to work… though before you place your order you’ll want to read my next three posts as well as do a price-feature comparison with what you have now.

Also, you may find that it turns out to be less expensive to order more services than you want.  For example, if you only want internet service — it’s cheaper to order enough service to get a free installation (well, it’s not free — I found no way to avoid the $29 activation fee — but it’s easy to see how to avoid the $149 installation fee).  If you order a bundle, the installation fee is waived; if you downgrade in the first thirty (30) days there’s a $5 fee — so as the installer is leaving, call and downgrade — save $144 of the installation fee… though taking advantage of some of the rewards and promotions may actually make it less expensive to have more services for longer.

Oh, and one last word — make sure you keep copies of everything you “read” online to do with any promotional credits, rewards, requirements.  As I’ve already said, AT&T does not engender trust.

Originally posted 2010-05-14 02:00:22.

GMail POP / IMAP / SMTP Settings

If you have a GMail account or a GMail hosted mail service you can use the information below to setup your local mail client after you enable access via the web interface.

 

POP:
 
host: pop.gmail.com
port: 995, use SSL
 
 
 
IMAP:
 
host: imap.gmail.com
port: 993, use SSL
 
 
 
SMTP:
 
host: smtp.gmail.com (requires authentication)
port: 465, use SSL
port: 587, use TLS

 

If you have a GMail hosted email server, you’ll need to sign in via:

     http://mail.google.com/a/<domain name>

or the URL provided by your administrator to make the changes, if you just have a regular GMail account sign in via

     http://www.gmail.com/

Originally posted 2008-05-19 14:18:26.

Google Music

Well that didn’t take long.

I’ve used a little of my time this week to get more of my digital music library together… and now I’m over the limit of Google Music (and I can tell you it doesn’t handle it gracefully).

But it was pretty obvious from the start that managing the Google Music storage wasn’t really going to be easy.

And I haven’t even finished uploading all my music — I haven’t even started on symphonic and Broadway tunes; and I’d guess I was about 70% through my rock/alternative/dance/country collection…

Yes, I could probably eliminate some music that I would probably never listen to; but the whole thing with cloud storage is that it’s supposed to be there when you want it no matter where you are… if I were always going to stay at home, I’d have access to all my music without the effort.

It’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll be using Amazon music storage by the end of the year, and just go ahead and pay them another $20 per year… the advantage to that is that they do support downloading your music — so I can view the $20 as simply a reasonable fee to backup my music off site.

Originally posted 2011-10-19 02:00:00.

Web Site Version Control

I’m not sure this is something that occurs to everyone, but I use SVN to version control my web pages. Essentially I treat my web pages just like a “software project”.

You do need to be mindful of files that you want to exclude from source control and/or transfer.

But I find the combination of SVN and FileZilla works great to take a local working copy of my web pages, maintain versioning, and push them out to my hosting facility.

While it’s not quite “one click” — it’s fairly simple to do, and it allows you to roll back changes easily.

Originally posted 2008-07-18 21:01:19.

Free Web Hosting

Below is a list of free web hosting sites; most of them don’t place any type of advertisements or links on your pages, some of them support scripting, and some of them have lenient policies as to content.

You’ll have to check each of these to see if they meet your needs.  I have very little personal experience with any of them, and none of them have my endorsement.

Please keep in mind what I generally say:

You rarely get what you pay for!

Originally posted 2009-02-22 01:00:14.

Domain Registrars and Hosting Companies

All domain registrars and hosting companies aren’t created equally…

If all you need from your domain registrar is just to get a domain, then find the absolute cheapest (and many have discounts for some TLDs from time to time)… but in general you might want DNS services, web redirects, email, etc… or even a full blown hosting plan — so it’s work looking around.

My domains are registered with, and hosted by 1and1.com — do I think they are the best… NO, but I do think they have a very good price for the services I happen to want, and their system works reasonably well.

But before you make a decision, you really need to decide what services you want, and look to see who offers what.

Ask your friends, a personal recommendation is one of the best ways to narrow the field.  Remember, though, not everyone wants the same services, so make sure you ask what services your friends get from the various companies, any problems they’ve had, anything they particularly like or dislike — and ask if they chose it because of a special promotional price.  The best deal today, won’t always be the best deal tomorrow.

Do you need your hosting company and your registrar to be the same?  Well, no you don’t…  Often though you’re going to find you get a better price overall by having the be the same.  That said, if you’re looking to move your domains from one place to another you might want to “try before you buy”.

I’d say the only requirement that a company has to have for you to consider them is a “money back guarantee”.  You can look over the information, play with their dummy control panel, etc all you want… but you won’t know if you like it (and it does the job) until you actually try to use it.

Most reputable hosting companies provide a 30-day money back guarantee.  I certainly ended up taking advantage of that at an “unlimited” hosting company.  And that’s something you just need to be sure they have.

The other thing to look at is what the contract term is for a reasonable price.  Some companies want you to sign up for three or four years to get a good price.  My advice is go with someone who gives you a competative price for thee to six months, and maybe even is offering a promotional package that extends the time you pay for.  Never sign up for more than a year unless it’s some incredible price, and then consider whether the company is likely going to be in business for the duration of the contract — and make sure they have a money back guarantee — and pay by credit card.

What if you only need domain registration?

Well, look at the prices charged, and any extra fees imposed.  You can check what the ICANN fee is currently, and contrast that with what the company is providing.  Odds are, though, you do want more than just a domain registration unless you do your own DNS, eMail, web, and blogs…

Here’s a partial list of feature you will probably want to consider:

Price

  • DNS (types of records you can create — additional domains, secondary domains)
  • email (POP, IMAP, SMTP — SSL/TLS — how many domains, how many accounts, forwarders, responders)
  • web (PHP, ASP, PERL, dot NET — how much storage, how much transfer, additional domains, secondary domains)
  • web applications (blogs, web page editors, etc)
  • database (MySQL, Postgress, Oracle, SQL Server — how large, how many)
  • access (FTP, Telnet, SSH, SFTP, SCP, WebDAV)

Here are a few companies to get you started:

  • JustHost
  • 1and1
  • NameCheap
  • Dotster
  • GoDaddy

And do an internet search on hosting companies – that will return quite a few.  Be mindful, many companies do business under multiple names.  I don’t generally consider this a very ethical practice; but not all companies who do this are dishonest.

 

One final personal note.

If NameCheap had more competative prices for hosting packages, and provided IMAP email I’d probably still be using them.  They do charge a little more than say 1and1, but they provide users the ability to control most every aspect of their domains.

I just moved all my domains from NameCheap to 1and1 when I decide I wanted to outsource my email, web, and blogs…

Originally posted 2008-05-12 13:17:53.

Internet Explorer 8

Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 quite a while ago, and I’m not sure they fully realized how many web pages it would break.

Sure, they put a compatibility mode in it to allow some older sites to run; and they have the facility to “update” IE8 to configure it for more sites with know issues, and developers can add a header or a meta tag to their web pages to force IE8 into compatibility mode, and of course a user and select compatibility mode.

A truly sad thing is that in all this time Microsoft hasn’t issued a fix to Virtual Server 2005’s web management interface (the only way you can control Virtual Server 2005); and it requires compatibility mode to work (come on guys, how tough is it to just update the web pages to include the meta tag — or maybe you could actually fix what’s broken in the page).

My personal feeling is that we didn’t need another version of Internet Explorer; and we certainly didn’t need another version of any software rushed out the door riddled with severe bugs and deficiencies.

Why software companies spend so much time and energy making things worse (work on thing that are BROKEN) is beyond me…

Your potential. Our passion.

Maybe they should consider we could all achieve our potential if we didn’t have to waste so much time finding works around for their psychoses.

Originally posted 2009-08-26 01:00:09.

AT&T U-Verse – Summary

After thinking over AT&T U-Verse service I’m going to have to make the call that it’s something you’ll have to consider long and hard and figure out if the cost makes it something that’s worth it to you.

AT&T is a horrible company to do business with; but then again, so likely is the company your get your video, telephone, and internet services from now — so that might be a wash.

AT&T is a company that doesn’t engender trust is the least — and you’ll have to keep documentation and follow up on them on just about every aspect of your order, your service, your rebates, your rewards, your bills, etc; but then again, that’s probably all true of almost every company you do business with now — so that might be a wash.

The prices are high; so unless the service offerings are a good fit for exactly what you want (and you can take advantage of some of the bundle discounts) you might want to deal with separate companies for each of the services.

The only real positive thing I can say about AT&T U-Verse is that there isn’t a long term contract; in fact there’s not really a contract of any sort (as long as you ignore the fact that you will need to retain the service for some period of time to actually get your rebates and rewards).

One thing I suspect we’ll see as the economy continues to stagnate is that companies will do more to retain existing customers; so you might find that pricing becomes much more flexible (I’ve already been offered a “free” upgrade to U450 service with the top-tier internet for 90-days… of course I’m pretty sure they’re betting on me forgetting to downgrade [I said “no thanks”]).

Originally posted 2010-05-18 02:00:50.