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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.

Employment Contact

For those who have located my résumé on line, please note that the email address that is on the résumé will generate a “Mail Delivery System” failure message; in that message will be the URL for my Employment Contact form.

It is truly unfortunate, but the amount of email (SPAM) I’m getting on these address that’s actually getting through the filters is staggering.  It appears one of the “hot” new jobs is people “stealing” email addresses and using them to send unsolicited commercial email too — and many companies (like Comcast; case ID NA0000014230535) don’t want to enforce their acceptable use policies for their [business] customers.

You can bypass getting the message and just use a contact form I’ve setup.

The contact form URL is http://rogersoles.com/employment, that will redirect you to a special contact form here on my BLOG.

I will respond to you from a disposable email address.

Originally posted 2010-04-01 01:15:33.

Define Your Vehicle’s True Identity

“Define Your Vehicle’s True Identity”, that is the slogan of carID — http://www.carid.com/ –I found this company when looking for a trunk mat for my new vehicle.

I’ve got a great deal of experience with WeatherTech — http://www.weathertech.com/ — I’ve used those in a number of vehicles, but they didn’t make a mat to fit.  So I did some reading and I liked what I read about Lloyd Mats — http://www.lloydmats.com/rubbertite.htm –Rubber Tite series.  They got favorable reviews, and they seemed at a fairly reasonable price point.

Well, like always, I started out pricing by using the internet to see where I might be able to save a little money…

That’s when I stumbled on carID — I’d never heard of them before; and frankly based on my experiences to date I certainly won’t be recommending them.

Here is the note I sent to them on 14-Mar-2011 at 1:36AM CDT

I came in with a 20% off coupon; and the first page says $44.91 for the mats for an 2011 Elantra (Limited – Sedan) — I was looking for cargo and front+back; but when I try and add either to my cart they appear at $67.41 — that’s a pretty hefty difference.

Referrer: http://www.carid.com/2011-hyundai-elantra-floor-mats/lloyd-floor-mats-161257.html

Here is what I got back from them on 17-March at 3:12PM CDT

Hello Soles,
Thank you for you interest in our products, we look forward to serving you.
Unfortunately we don’t provide discounts on weathertech items.

Sincerely,

Anthony Vertser
Customer Service
Tel 800.505.3274 Ext 883
anthony.ve@carid.com

Right… Lloyd and WeatherTech are two separate companies…

So here is what I sent back to them just a little while ago:

I do appreciate you taking the time to reply to my inquiry.. but I don’t think Lloyd (makers of Rubber Tite) and Weather Tech are even slightly related companies. In fact, I don’t think Weather Tech makes a custom mat set for 2011 Elantra Sedan (I’m quite happy with those in my 4Runner – I looked at their offering first).

I’m beginning to get the feeling that your company might not quite meet the bar for ethical advertising and business practices… it just feels questionable at best, with great potential for at least bordering on fraud.

Perhaps I’ll just take my money else where… I get the feeling it would hard to be more disappointed in dealing with an eTailer than I have been with yours.

I’ll be happy to share my experience with others – I wouldn’t want you to be deprived of the exposure.

– LR Soles

Maybe it’s unfair to gauge a company from one interaction — but you know the old saying

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

I’ll take my business elsewhere – I don’t mind paying a couple dollars more for an item to avoid what looks like it has great potential to become a nightmare situation quickly — particularly with a statement like:

NOTE: These mats will be custom manufactured to your specifications and once ordered may not be returned for credit or exchange.

On their order page — what if there’s a mistake in their processing, a defect…

I certainly offered them a chance to explain the pricing discrepancy to me; and perhaps there is an explanation — perhaps I made an error… but their response just doesn’t cut it; and doesn’t encourage me to want to spend money there.

If you purchase from them, use a credit card that’s issued through a financial institution you have a good relationship with — sometime tells me you just might need a charge back to get satisfaction.

Originally posted 2011-03-18 02:00:25.

Windows 7

It’s here…

Today is the official release of Microsoft® Windows 7.

Originally posted 2009-10-22 01:00:12.

Compression

There are two distinct features that Windows Server 2008 outshines Linux on; and both are centric on compression.

For a very long time Microsoft has supported transparent compression as a part of NTFS; you can designate on a file-by-file or directory level what parts of the file system are compressed by the operating system (applications need do nothing to use compressed files).  This feature was probably originally intended to save the disk foot print of seldom used files; however, with the explosive growth in computing power what’s happened is that compressed files can often be read and decompressed much faster from a disk than a uncompressed file can.  Of course, if you’re modifying say a byte or two in the middle of a compressed file over and over, it might not be a good idea to mark it as compressed — but if you’re basically reading the file sequentially then compression may dramatically increase the overall performance of the system.

The reason for this increase is easy to understand; many files can be compressed ten to one (or better), that means each disk read is reading effectively ten times the information, and for a modern, multi-core, single-instruction/multiple-data capable processor to decompress this stream of data put no appreciable burden on the processing unit(s).

Recently, with SMBv2, Microsoft has expanded the file sharing protocol to be able to transport a compressed data stream, or even a differential data stream (Remote Differential Compression – RDC) rather than necessarily having to send every byte of the file.  This also has the effect of often greatly enhancing the effect data rate, since once again a modern, multi-core, single-instruction/multiple-data capable processor can compress (and decompress) a data stream at a much higher rate than most any network fabric can transmit the data (the exception would be 10G).  In cases of highly constrained networks, or networks with extremely high error rates the increase in effect through put could be staggering.

Unfortunately, Linux lags behind in both areas.

Ext4 does not include transparent compression; and currently no implementation of SMBv2 is available for Linux servers (or clients).

While there’s no question, what-so-ever, that the initial cost of a high performance server is less if Linux is chosen as the operating system, the “hidden” costs of lacking compression may make the total cost of ownership harder to determine.

Supporting transparent compression in a file system is merely a design criteria for a new file system (say Ext5 or Ext4.1); however, supporting SMBv2 will be much more difficult since (unlike SMBv1) it is a closed/proprietary file sharing protocol.

Originally posted 2010-07-11 02:00:49.

The Party of “NO”

After two years of “just saying ‘no'” to almost everything — the GOP has promised that they’ll provide the nation with a detailed plan including specific initiatives of how the GOP would take this country forward.

Of course, I’m going to be quick to remind everyone that it was a Republican President, and a Republican legislature that sent this country’s economy into the toilet and sent this country war (predicated on misinformation — or outright lies if you don’t care about political correctness).

I’m all for reading the GOP agenda — to see if it contains anything more than their usual agenda of making the rich richer and making sure the rich can’t be held accountable for their bad (or call them illegal) decisions.

Originally posted 2010-09-01 02:00:16.

Revise Windows XP “Home” Directory Structure

I gave this “tool” to a few of my friends a couple weeks ago and many of them thought it was kewl (a few even though it was useful).

It’s a fairly simple batch file that uses LINKD (which is also in the 7z file) from the Microsoft Windows Resource Kit (technically you need to download the resource kit to get it) that creates a junction point (that is a type of reparse point in the Windows NTFS file system that causes a redirection much like a “hard link” in many *nix file systems).  I could have used the MKLINK executable that ships with Windows, but I prefer LINKD.

OK — enough techo-babble…

What it does is make the “home” directory structure on Windows XP look more like it does on Windows Vista and Windows 7… so that you don’t have to keep thinking about which system you’re on.  No reason to write one for Windows Vista and Windows 7 to make it look like Windows XP since Microsoft generates the Windows XP style links on install (and that’s where I got the idea).

So…

C:\Documents and Setting can be referenced by C:\Users

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\My Documents can be referenced by C:\Users\Administrator\Documents

Etc… I do the same for Downloads, Pictures, Music, Videos (if the My… exists).

I’ve tested it on both Windows XP and on Server 2003, seems to work just fine; but there’s no guarantee (read that as no warranty expressed or implied); code check the batch file for yourself.

The “tool” can be downloaded in a 7zip archive via: MkLinks

Originally posted 2009-11-25 01:00:28.

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.

Speeding Up Your Home / Small Office Network

This will be the first in a multi-part post targeted at making suggestions as to how you can improve the performance of your home and / or small office network.

None of these recommendations require a rocket scientist, and if there are questions on any of these topics I’ll try and take the time to put together a HOW-TO post to cover those areas.

__________

The Intenet, and your home network use TCP/IP, and while it was designed to withstand a nuclear attack, it isn’t necessarily always the most efficient protocol.

DNS (Domain Name Service) is built on top of TCP/IP and it’s purpose is to provide a way to refer to nodes on the “network” by name rather than remembering the address (in dotted quad notation).

Most modern computers are capable of caching DNS resolutions, so that you don’t have to continually resolve the addresses, and that’s important for a browser since it will often load many parts of a page from the same address.  However, if you have more than one computer on your network, those computers do not share the information they have (some routers will also do DNS caching).

A good way to improve the performance of your network is to implement a local caching DNS server; that type of server basically only knows how to do resolutions, it doesn’t have any addresses stored locally (that makes it easy to install and maintain — since you really don’t need to do anything to it once it’s setup except check for security updates).

If you happen to have a Windows server machine (2000, 2003, or 2008) then you can just install Microsoft’s DNS server and use it.  However if you only have Windows workstations (home, professional, etc) then a good option is BIND from ISC — it’s totally free, and is the reference platform for DNS.  For a novice BIND can be a little daunting, but you can download everything you need to setup a caching only name server.  If you have a *nix machine around (that’s BSD, Linux, OS-X) then you can also run BIND on it, and odds are there are some ready to run configuration files with your distribution.

After you have BIND installed you will need to tell each of your machines to use your local DNS server rather than the current server they use; odds are your router does DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) and issues IP addresses as well as gateways and dns information to each of your machines.  Just change your router so that it provides the address of your local dns server rather than the ones it currently does and you should be good to go.

Now with BIND installed locally, you can also create your own zone and name your machines — but more about that in a future post.

Originally posted 2009-01-09 12:00:12.

Bait and switch rates?

Yesterday (Monday 6-Jul-2010) at 4:15pm I stopped by Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union to open up an IRA Certificate of Deposit; I’d been in the process of transferring money from one institution to another (and it took much longer than it should have — but since two institutions were involved, it’s hard to know which was responsible for the delay).

Anyway, I ended up having to wait 45 minutes to be helped; that gave me plenty of time to look over the posted rate board — and I’d decided that the 2.09% for a 24-month IRA-CD looked reasonable (I’d have preferred 18 months or less, but I wanted a reasonable return rate, and I don’t really expect the economy to start to rebound for several years).

The customer service representative that helped me (the “Financial Services Representative”) ask me which CD I was interested in and I told him — the 24-month 2.09% APR; he immediately said, that the 24-month IRA-CD was 1.97%, not 2.09% — that it had changed on Friday 2-Jul-2010 and they simply hadn’t gotten around to posting it on their rate board.

WTF?

I’ve long been under the impression that financial institutions understand the importance of posting accurate rate information — and I thought most any ethical institution understands the legal (even if they don’t understand the moral) implications of posting fraudulent information.

When I got home I filed complaints with the State of Florida Attorney General’s office (in Tallahassee, FL) and the National Credit Union Administration, Region III office (in Atlanta, GA) requesting that they investigate the business practices of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union.



Post Note: The VP of Operations contacted me this morning (7-Jul-2010) and Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union will honor the rate as posted yesterday (for me at least).

Originally posted 2010-07-07 02:00:32.