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free software Highlights Internet Open source WebTech

Showing Windows the door

I’m now running Ubuntu Feisty Fawn beta on my main blogging gear – an MSI S260 laptop – and I haven’t stopped saying “wow” since when I finished installing it late Monday night.

I’ve used Ubuntu before, but mainly as a local server and the experience can be summarized as: boot CD, choose server setup, follow on-screen instructions, configure settings, then connect from my Windows PC.

Ubuntu Feisty Fawn desktop MY NEW WORKSTATION. Ubuntu running on my main blogging gear, an MSI S260 laptop. Click on photo to view larger image.

I’ve never gotten around to using Ubuntu as a desktop despite a long standing entry in my to-do list to do just that. I’ve tried its live CD and tinkered with desktops installed with it but for a long time I lived in a Windows-centric world–office PC, home unit, and laptop. What has stopped me from using Ubuntu sooner is my dependence on such applications as Photoshop and InDesign for newsroom work.

I’ve also been set back by my reliance on the open source Float’s Mobile Agent (FMA) to manage my Sony Ericsson K750i. When I’m at the office, my phone is, more often than not, connected to the PC and being managed by FMA. I use the program to send, receive, and archive messages as well as manage my contacts and calendar entries. When I’m on the field, FMA saves me a lot of time sending messages while writing stories.

FMA currently runs only on Windows but I found an old post in the support forum that said a developer was able to make it run in Linux using Wine.

Last Monday, I decided to wipe out Windows from my laptop and use the Ubuntu Feisty Fawn beta release. The IT staff assigned to the newsroom suggested I use a dual-boot setup and retain a Windows partition but I was bent on having an Ubuntu-only system.

I’m no geek, and the only sudo I know ends with “ko” but with the holidays, I figured I’d have enough time to tinker with my laptop if the installation goes awry.

Categories
Free services Internet WebTech

Server monitoring site adds weekly e-mail reports

Mon.itor.us, a free service that monitors the availability of your web server, now sends weekly PDF reports on the uptime of your websites. The report provides a snapshot of the availability of your site within the week. The weekly PDF report seemed a recent addition to its already formidable lineup of services. This is still the second time I’ve received one.

web server availability report PDF REPORT. Mon.itor.us sends a weekly report on the availability of servers you are monitoring. Click on image to enlarge.

Of course, you can always go to your mon.itor.us account to view detailed statistics not only on your web server availability but also on response times. Mon.itor.us monitors web server performance from three different locations—Germany, Austria, and the United States.

Of all the free web server monitoring services I tried, mon.itor.us is the most consistent and dependable. It’s is usually the first to alert me whenever any of the sites I monitor is down. This means mon.itor.us checks availability more frequently than the other services.

Mon.itor.us also provides its users detailed records of the response times of web servers. You can view the response time of your site, from which country and on what hour of any given day since you signed up for its service.

I’ve previously written about how to use mon.itor.us to compare web hosting providers. I still continue monitoring blogs with Media Temple and Dreamhost to help me on my choice of company to sign up with. I’m currently on a shared server account with A Small Orange and I’m happy with its service. I’ve decided to sign up for another year with them, this time on a bigger plan.

Categories
Free services Highlights Internet Photography WebTech

Get unlimited photo storage with Zooomr

Photo sharing site Zooomr has removed the limits on the amount of photo you can upload and store in the site. Zooomr is currently undergoing transition to Mark III, a new version with over 250 new features and which offers users the ability to sell photographs and keep 90% of the sale.

zooomr NO LIMIT. Zooomr has removed storage limits for its users. The free photo storage site is currently undergoing transition to a new version. Click on photo to view larger image.

The transition to Mark III has been delayed but founder Kristopher Tate has decided to remove account limits, a move scheduled for Mark III.

If you post a lot of photos in your website or blog, it makes sense to host it with sites such as Flickr or Zooomr. If you host your blog or website in a shared web server, as I do, you run the risk of going over your web space quota in just a few months if you frequently post high-resolution photos.

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Mobile Open source WebTech

Traffic, flood, crime data on your mobile phone

Apart from Bulacan State University’s Smart Phone Guard, the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) project that really piqued my interest in this year’s Innovation and Excellence Awards is Ateneo de Manila University’s Smart Safety Assistance (3S).

The system packages mobile services, using open source projects, into a system that offers people access, via a PC or mobile device, to data on traffic and road conditions, floods, and crime incidence.

3s project of Ateneo de Manila SMART SAFETY ASSISTANCE. Ted Angelo Chua, lead student of the team from Ateneo de Manila, explains to judges how 3S works. (photo by Smart PA)

Perhaps because it isn’t as visceral as the three winners, Ateneo de Manila missed a place in the top three. The 3S package is an excellent system, albeit more geared toward urban centers.

The 3S system centers on a web server that gathers traffic, crime, and flood data as well as video streams from cameras placed on major roads. The server then processes these data and makes it available via the Internet to a PC or phone. The server can also send the data as an MMS message and information as SMS message.

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Free services WebTech

Usernames, passwords of IT employment site revealed

ISAW or Internet Security and Warfare alerts users of a page in ITPros.ph that contains a listing of its members’ account details, including passwords, in plain text. ITpros.ph is designed to be “the Philippines’ key employment facilitator for the ICT industry.”

The page is searchable through Google and when I went over its listings, I spotted the account of someone that I know.

ITpros.ph EXPOSED PASSWORDS. A screengrab of account details listed in a page in ITpros.ph. The page lists the details, including passwords, in plain text. Click on photo to view larger image.

I informed the person of it and he confirmed it was indeed his old account and the password listed there was indeed the one he used. I think this is potentially dangerous as most people use the same passwords for multiple accounts. I also spotted several accounts using “password” as password.

The availability of the page shows the potential risks of signing up to websites, what with the multitude of web 2.0 services cropping all over the Web and the urge to immediately sign up for accounts. Most people I know use the same password for their e-mail and other web-based services. If one of these services is compromised and your account details are exposed, your other accounts are also at risk.

This is scary, don’t you think? I’m reorganizing my passwords. I’ll be using a different password for my blogs, GMail, AdSense and web server panel accounts. I’ll be using shorter ones for less important services. I’ll be using a new combination for signing up to websites–you know the type, the latest free web 2.0 service to be featured in Techcrunch.

Categories
Blogs Open source WebTech

Nice work if you can get it: Ella sings and WordPress blings

I took the plunge. This blog, as well as a host of other sites I run using WordPress, is now using the latest release of the popular open source blogging software: WordPress 2.1 “Ella,” named after the great Ella Fitzgerald, one of my favorite singers.

I did not encounter errors in the upgrading process, which took less than an hour for all the blogs I oversee. I am, to continue with the Ella theme, in the mood for “making whoopee.”

Major upgrades, like WordPress 2.1, are not to be taken lightly. I botched a major Serendipity upgrade oh so many years back (my fault) and lost at least 50 blog posts. On hindsight, though, the posts are better off in digital limbo.

WordPress update CPANEL FEATURE. Cpanel allows you to upload a packaged file (i.e. zip, tar) and then uncompress this using a point and click interface. This saved me time in uploading new WordPress files while upgrading several blogs I run. Click on image to view larger version.

Unlike security releases, which I implement as soon as I read about them, I usually take days to upgrade to a feature release. This gives me time to read about problems of others who took the plunge earlier. The major cause for worry with the latest WordPress version is the compatibility of plugins for your website blings.

Categories
Blogs planner WebTech

WordPress blog maintenance checklist

Unlike blogs hosted in such services as WordPress.com and Blogger.com, weblogs installed in your own server need regular checks and maintenance. Failing to do these checks can leave your blogs sluggish and even vulnerable to security problems.

If you use WordPress to run your website, at the minimum, you need to be on the lookout for new releases (one has just been released as a write this) of the blogging engine. You also need to regularly check updates on such things as your theme and the plugins you are using.

Blog tasks checklist WORDPRESS BLOG CHECKLIST. My checklist for tasks related to running a WordPress site. click on photo to view larger image.

I used to keep track of these tasks using an installation of activeCollab, an open source project management software that mimics Basecamp. With the recent Internet connectivity problems caused by that earthquake in Taiwan, I decided to track blog management-related tasks on paper. This way, I can prioritize whatever time I can spend online on really important tasks.

I created this blog maintenance checklist as reminder of tasks I need to do as well as tracker of such things as version numbers of plugins and themes.

Categories
Highlights Internet WebTech

Media Temple falters on 100% uptime promise

Media Temple, in the first days after launching its widely-hyped GridServer hosting, seemed to deliver on its grandiose 100% uptime promise. The figures I was getting in early monitoring of Media Temple uptime, and a host of other web hosting services, was tempting me to sign up with them for a project that was still at an early stage.

I’ve since changed my mind. I will be using my current web host, the dependable A Small Orange, for the new project. MediaTemple has apparently failed to sustain its 100% availability, based on my monitoring using mon.itor.us and the posts of scores of its own customers. The downtime was significant that it generated an article in Netcraft.

And even if it got good http uptime performance for several days, there were a lot of complaints regarding Media Temple’s database connections, a huge issue for those that depend on PHP/MySQL scripts, such as WordPress, to run their websites.

Categories
Open source WebTech

Trying out Drupal as content management system

I installed the Drupal 5.0 beta 1 release yesterday and the installation was so easy it could rival WordPress’ famous five-minute installs.

I’ve long wanted to try the open source content management system and for several months now, “try Drupal” has featured prominently in my someday/maybe lists (plural because I kept transferring and playing with new task managers). It became prominent after I found out that The Onion is being run using Drupal.

Drupal installer DRUPAL INSTALLER. The 5.0 beta release of Drupal comes with a web-based installation script. Click on image to enlarge.

The new release comes with a web-based installer that simplifies the setting up of Drupal, After I downloaded the release and I uploaded the files to my test site, I was greeted with the installer when I opened the page, with the notice that I should add write permissions to the settings.php file.

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Highlights Internet WebTech

Media Temple delivers on 100% uptime promise

Media Temple’s promise of 100% uptime with their Grid-Server hosting may sound too good to be true.

I initially thought that it’s chief executive officer’s statement that they are actually considering paying customers, on top of granting them rebates, whenever there is a downtime as coming close to a boast.

I know better now. The 100% server uptime is true.

No, I’m not hosted with Media Temple, yet — although I’m considering a transfer to the Grid-Server — but I’ve been monitoring an account hosted with their servers. When I read about the Grid-Server offering, I searched for a website hosted with them so that I could monitor that site using mon.itor.us, a tool I wrote about earlier.