Ramblings on technology with a dash of social commentary
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  • Google Wave offers Real-Time Translation

    Posted on July 22nd, 2009 phpguru 1 comment

    I once had a skype chat with an expert web developer on Grand Canary Island about the feasibility of building on online application where two people who speak different languages could chat with each other through some kind of near-real-time translation software.

    In short, the theory goes: take the language barrier out of the equation. Enable both users of a 2-way chat, or all members of an online meeting, to type and receive messages in their preferred language.

    Well, that same Grand Canary Website Designer recently sent me this link to Google Wave on Wikipedia.

    Chatting online is more asynchronous than a phone conversation, and as computing power increases and the quality and speed of machine translation improves, a realistic chat experience between two people who don’t speak the same language is getting closer to being possible. Much closer, in fact. Google Wave debuts September, 2009.

    Google Wave seems to be many things, including a new way of thinking about how to organize, present, and interact with communication messages.  After a quick review, it also seems like Google may be using the Wave project to try to address things like the annoying nature of threaded blog posts and comment threads, following a multi-page forum discussion, sifting through multiple endless copies of forwarded email, and other annoyances that come with communicating in an increasingly digital world.

  • What’s in the the Health Care Bill

    Posted on July 22nd, 2009 phpguru No comments

    Here’s another one from my brother. A must read:

    www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2009/07/whats-in-healthacre-bill.html

    It’s worse than you can possibly imagine.

    Peter Fleckstein (aka Fleckman) is reading it and has been posting on Twitter his findings. This is from his postings (Note: All comments are Fleckman’s)

  • Help Say No To Obama Care

    Posted on July 16th, 2009 phpguru No comments

    I’ve been quiet lately. This is at least, in part, due to the daily onslaught of news which seems even more absurd than that from the last day.

    As if the passage of the 1000+ page quote-on-quote Economic Stimulus package bill wasn’t enough, as if all the bailouts weren’t enough, ObamaCare certainly is firmly in the top position of the most absurd things our government has done or is trying to do.

    Investors Business Daily says It’s Not an Option.

    Just one look at the Organizational Chart of the House Demograts Health Care Plan should leave you extremely confused.

    Please call your congressman and urge them not to support ObamaCare. This is the kind of change we DON’T need.

    Instead, check out John Shadegg’s market-based plan

    And here’s another idea… if lawmakers are so convinced socializing American medicine is the way to go, why not force THEM to be on the plan FIRST? That’s exactly what HR615 proposes. I urge you to Call Your Congressman and Contact Elected Officials to tell them NOBAMACARE!

  • China, The New America?

    Posted on July 6th, 2009 phpguru No comments

    At this exact moment, 7pm on Monday after the 4th of July weekend, CNBC isn’t running a program highlighting how amazing this country is, how unbelievably hard-working its people are, nor how bountiful our blessings, nor how gorgeous our borders, from sea to shining sea.

    No, CNBC is running a program about how great China is, as they become more like Us. But are they becoming more like us? They are billions, that are owed trillions. We are mere millions that owe trillions. We owe THEM trillions. It starts to become staggering when you try to do the math on that, to actually attempt to figure out how much, no, what our children, grand children and great grand children’s lives will be like, paying off our mistakes, if they’re ever even able to.

    Aside from this being absurd and propagandist programming, it’s not only impossible, it’s so far from the truth it is blowing my mind right now. It reminds me of this:

    Some people had better wake up, quick. And start studying Mandarin. And start figuring out how to make some pretty amazing businesses, products, and services that the entire world wants to buy from us quick if we want to get ourselves out of the mess we’re in.

    I cannot honestly believe that my Democrat friends from college are glad right now that they elected a steamrolling majority of themselves to spend us all into oblivion.

  • Club Mac Adds Me To Their Test Email List

    Posted on July 6th, 2009 phpguru No comments

    I recently received yet another ClubMac promotional email. I usually don’t mind them. The creative and graphics are pretty good.

    But the last two were from test.

    clubmacad1

    clubmacad2

    At first, I didn’t think much of it, but now I’m wondering whether it’s a secret marketing gimmick, if I’m about to receive an apology email about a glitch in the emarketing department, or (here’s an idea for you) send me an email about ‘secret plan’ to ‘reward our best customers’ through a unique and clever advertising concept. I’m the winner, right? I discovered the Easter Egg for the 8 Core, 32GB of RAM Maxed out G5 System with Two 30″ Cinema Displays? That’s fantastic news! I could really use a new box!

    Wait, Let’s check out their site and see how much that baby is running these days…

    clubmacad3

    Duh! Do these guys need a CNAME or what?! Oh wait, does this DNS error qualify me to receive the Canon HD Digital Camera with Final Cut Pro HD premium prize?

    Well let’s try the www version of the domain name.

    Yep that works.

    So I Click to Systems and then the Image of

    the most expensive computer on earth, a Mac Pro 8 Core.

    clubmacad4

    Cannot find item: 7371957. Gotcha, maybe ClubMac’s  asp application can’t FindTheBiggestTicketItem.DLL.

    Am I the only one who finds this funny?

  • Amazing Flash Sites and Flash Resources

    Posted on July 4th, 2009 phpguru No comments

    It’s quite rare, but every now and then, I stumble on a site that I would mirror if I could. A site that should live for ever.

    When it comes to Flash resources, a few come to mind.

    The Flash Bestiary is one.

    The ActionScript.org forums.

    If the FlashDen doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.

  • Tableless Forms using Fieldset, Legend & Label

    Posted on July 4th, 2009 phpguru No comments

    Here are some great resources on how to avoid using tables for form construction and presentation.

    If you have some time, this is a great read. Though it has over 2,000 Diggs, it’s a bit hard to read. It strikes me as ironic that this article is about formatting with CSS… yet the page itself leaves quite a bit to be desired.

    Jeff Howden has an easy-to-follow example, and here’s a good article at CSS Drive with some examples.

    While I was researching this post, I stumbled across a “Humbling Site” CSSRemix, a site filled with the most amazing example XHTML/CSS sites that are, quite frankly, just jaw dropping.  It immediately reminded me of The FWA (The Flash Website Awards).  A Humbling Site is a site where, when you visit it as a pretty darn good web developer, you are instantly reminded that no matter how good you think you are, there’s always somebody better.

  • TuneCore Declares Drake Best Selling Unsigned Artist of All Time

    Posted on July 2nd, 2009 phpguru No comments

    Read TuneCore, Drake, and Charts by Jeff Price

    Jeff Price is the Founder and CEO of TuneCore

    A TuneCore Artist named Drake used TuneCore to distribute his music about 14 days ago.  Since then, he has sold over 300,000 copies of his single  “Best I Ever Had”.


  • How to configure a staging server

    Posted on July 2nd, 2009 phpguru No comments

    I just finished re-reading this post from a few hours ago and realized it has way too much detail and anecdotal information that most people aren’t going to want or need. What you need to know is the safest and easiest way to configure your staging server during a website redesign.

    The goals are:

    1. Leave current website untouched while creating a new site at a staging URL
    2. Has to be easy to configure, reliable and repeatable at different ISPs
    3. Should require the least amount of effort & special skills to set up
    4. Should require the least amount of fiddling with your application code
    5. Should require the least amount of tweaking right at launch time

    If you want to set up a staging server the easy way, here are my recommendations:

    1. Create a new hosting account based on the name of the main domain. DNS isn’t pointed to the staging server yet, but don’t worry about that. Chances are the new site will be avaliable at http://some.ip.ad.dress/~account/ but that’s ugly and not user-friendly.
    2. Add a parked domain to facilitate previewing, testing and approvals. Take advantage of the fact that a parked domain name can resolve to the staging server IP before the main domain is pointed. In essence, the parked domain is the staging domain and resolves to the staging server’s IP during and after development.
    3. Edit your local hosts file periodically to test the site at the main URL without having to change DNS entries at your provider.
    4. At launch, update the DNS for the main domain and point it to the IP of the staging server. There should be nothing more to do or configure differently because the web server was already programmed to serve the main domain in step 1.
  • How to View Your New Website Before DNS is Pointed

    Posted on July 1st, 2009 phpguru 3 comments

    So you decided to upgrade your website, redesign your site, or use the services of a new web guy. Since your existing website is still live on the internet, you want to keep your existing website live and untouched while you develop a new one on a staging server.

    Any good web development company or website programmer should be able to explain how this process works. Perhaps they linked you to this post. Then again, this is not something that the average person under normal circumstances needs to do. Anyway…

    In a nushell you have three options:

    1. You can preview your domain at the new website’s IP address.

    • Your web guy might be able to develop your new website at a static IP. If so, you can just browse that.
    • That theory worked for the last several years, when you could devote a dedicated IP address to any site you wanted (most ISPs charge a buck or two a month for a static IP).
    • Now that the net has run out of IP4-class IPs, nowadays you have to prove you need a static IP address (e.g. an e-commerce website needs a static IP for SSL Certificate installation) before they’ll just give you one.
    • In short, your website may not be perfectly programmed to run at http://some.ip.add.ress/~newaccount/ although many do. For approvals and previewing purposes, emailing URLs around with numbers and funky characters in them tends to scare people. In short, in addition to being a little confusing, this may only be a viable option in certain circumstances.

    2. You can register a domain name other than your main domain name, and point that domain name to your staging box as a parked domain.

    • Parked domains are often called aliases, although aliases, or more accurately CNAME records are not exactly the same thing, which adds to the confusion. The shortest way to explain it is that if domainB.com is parked to domainA.com then typing domainB.com in a browser will bring up domainA.com. You can take advantage of how domain parking works during a redesign.
    • For example, Salient Digital, Inc. has www.salientdigital.com for it’s main domain, so I register salientdigital.net. I create a hosting account on a new server on a different IP and create the account as salientdigital.com, but then add the parked domain, salientdigital.net.
    • This way, I’m developing the new web application as and on salientdigital.com, according to the new server’s local dns. Nobody knows about salientdigital.net, including Google and the other Search Engines.
    • For safe measure you can place a robots.txt in the root level with no index no follow, or even put an .htpasswd on the htdocs folder for added security.
    • Once salientdigital.net is done and approved as the new website, I can point the DNS for salientdigital.net to the new (staging server’s) IP address… and no normal ‘launch’ is necessary.

    3. You can hack your local DNS.

    • This is the fastest and easiest way, but is the most technical as well.
    • All operating systems (Mac OS X, Windows & Unix/Linux) have a “local hosts file”.
    • Under Windows, this file is located in C:\WINDOWS\System32\drivers\etc\hosts.
    • On Mac OS X and Unix systems, this file is located in /etc/hosts.
    • Even though there is no .txt extension on this file, you can coerce your box to open it.
    • Google how to edit hosts file for troubleshooting tips if you can’t find it or edit it.
    • This solution overcomes the non-viability of option 1.
    • How does it work? Why would I want to edit my hosts file?
      • Your web developer will be developing your new site at some IP address.
      • The server where this new account is set up knows how to serve it up, but you have to ask for it specifically. That is, if you make a request for salientdigital.com specifically to the ip address of the new/staging server, the server will know how to respond. The trick is requesting the old domain from the new server. To do this, we can hack our local hosts file.
      • So the process goes like this:
      • You type in http://salientdigital.com in your browser.
      • The first place your system looks for where (the IP address of the Web Server) where that site might be located is the local system’s hosts file.
      • If the server IP address is not in your hosts file, your system asks the DNS network for the location.
      • If your local network doesn’t have a DNS entry for the domain you’re looking for, your ISP asks the DNS network on the internet at large for the server’s IP.
      • So, the whole point of DNS is to map Domain Names to Server IPs.
      • Adding an entry to your local hosts file is just instructing your computer exactly where a site is located so that it doesn’t need to check the Internet DNS system for the IP – you’ve listed it locally.
    • Now, Ask your web guy to give you the IP address where your new site is being developed.
    • Even if the IP is a shared IP address with an account name on the end of it, that doesn’t matter. It’s just how DNS works.
    • Open your hosts file in a text editor, scroll to the end and press return at least once or twice, and then add the IP address, then some spaces or tabs, then the website domain name you are re-developing.
    • You would enter something like

    xxx.yyy.zzz.aaa      bbb.com

    • where the first part is the NEW SERVER’s IP address, and the second part is the CURRENT/MAIN domain name.
    • Save, and open a browser.
    • Now, what happens next is magical:
    • Browse to bbb.com and your new site will appear. You have to have the staging server set up as described above, using the main domain (bbb.com) for the account. (Adding a different parked domain as in Option 2 just makes it easier to pass around via email for approvals.)
    • On your computer, and your computer computer only, and nowhere else on the internet, that hosts file tells your computer to look at the new server for the salientdigital.com home page. And the new server (at the new IP you put in your hosts file) returns it to you.
    • 99.999% of the time, www.salientdigital.com will still resolve to the current, live, old website, while salientdigital.com (without the www.) shows the new site.

    Once the new site is approved, the DNS record has been updated to the new IP (wait up to 48-72 hours for it to work worldwide… this is commonly called ‘DNS Propogation’ but it just means wait for a while)… you can go back into your hosts file and delete the line you added during development.

    One thing to bear in mind is that you may need to tweak your web server settings, your ISP may not allow you to park domains before DNS is pointed, or your network administrator or ISP may be using a proxy server. Any of these can override your experience, so your mileage may vary.  I’ve asked some ISP technicians about this before and realized I knew more about than they did. DNS can be screwy, so test from multiple browsers, different computers, clear your cache, when in doubt: reboot, Google it, backup your system first, etc. … All the normal precautions still apply.